229th Army Band supports Baltimore civil unrest operations

By Staff Sgt. Walter Hirschmann
229th Army Band

News story photo
Staff Sgt. Walter Hirschmann on piano and Staff Sgt. Erin Betz singing and playing guitar for Soldiers in Baltimore, MD.
In the midst of civil unrest, protests, and demonstrations following the controversial death of Mr. Freddie Gray, the Governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan [at the request of Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake,] declared a State of Emergency on 27 April 2015. This declaration allowed Governor Hogan and his cabinet to support the City of Baltimore with a full complement of Maryland's assets. In conjunction with his order, Governor Hogan activated nearly 2,000 Maryland National Guard Soldiers and Airmen to provide State and City Police Officers with a supporting cast of Citizen Soldiers. Shocking to some, among the Soldiers called to State Activation were 8 members of the 229th Army Band.

The 229th Band was tasked by the States Joint Task Force (JTF) to provide 24/7 transportation and logistic support for units that were being staged throughout several key positions within the City of Baltimore. Operating primarily from their armory in Parkville, Maryland, the band was activated because of its high density of licensed and mission ready bus and truck drivers. Soldiers within the Army Band field are some of the most seasoned motorist within the National Guard; a bi-product of year round concert touring while providing their own internal troop movement. These skills came in exceedingly handy when the State's Transportation companies were engaged in separate movement missions. In total, the members of the 229th Army Band safely completed over 500 city miles behind the wheel and nearly 770 man hours from 27 April to 3 May 2015.

The mission didn't stop there.

Musicians always, members of the 229th were able to piece together a Praise and Worship Musical Performance Team (MPT) in under 2 hours to support Chaplain (First Lieutenant) Brown of the 115th Military Police Battalion. With the majority of the Soldiers performing on secondary or tertiary instruments, the ensemble was so well received at the morning service that they packed up to take the show to Lot C of M&T Bank Stadium [the main staging area for emergency operations].

The stage area at Lot C was back dropped by nearly 1,000 Soldiers, Airmen, Emergency Response Personnel, Law Enforcement Officers, and countless vehicles and tents. The site was an awesome example of cross-coordination and teamwork, serving as a reminder of why Army Bands do what they do… to inspire hope and foster the ability to fight and win. Who would have thought a week earlier it would be to foster that same strength in our own community?

"Thank you," commented one crying Soldier. "That song was played at my mother’s funeral. I know she is with me today. That's what I needed to hear and I didn't even know it."

While the role of the Army Band is very small in the grand scheme of the Army, it is most certainly integral in supporting the success of its Soldiers. No responsibility is more important than the latter. Whether it be as a driver or musician, the band will always be there to ensure the continued support of its State and Nation.

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