By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
This past Memorial Day, our town had a grand celebration of a most solemn day of remembrance, and it warmed my heart to both know and hear that the Army Materiel Command Band out of Redstone was on duty to provide live, stirring music as only they can. I smiled as I thought back to the important role they “played” in Iraq in raising the morale of our troops and providing the therapy that is the singular purview of musical sound.
You see, it was in the former hunting lodge of Saddam Hussein, during the hotter-than-the-hinges-of-Hades summers, that we gladly moved around the furniture so that these guys and gals could unpack their instruments, with their weapons slung over their backs. Man, oh man, could they ever play! They showed up in the DFacs (Dining Facilities); Saddam’s Birthday Palace; set up indoors and outdoors; played morning, noon and night; and their excellence of spirit and musical production were more than memorable.
It was at the above-mentioned Athens-Limestone County Memorial Day event that Deb Kohlhase told me that the band was going to be deactivated, which made us both sad. She then sent me the following info with the thoughtful intent that stated, “I’m sure we can’t stop their deactivation, but perhaps we can at least give them a warm sendoff. It makes me sad — they did an impressive job every time & place I have heard them over the years.”
The Public Affairs Office at Redstone took time to both honor them as well as talk about their history:
“The AMC Band has proudly served the command since 2006, supporting Soldiers and civilians worldwide, performing across the United States and in Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates.
The U.S. Army Materiel Command Band was constituted on 15 January 1944 as the 389th Army Band, and was activated the following week at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.
The AMC Band has direct ties to the U.S. Army Signal Corps Band and the 13th Cavalry Regimental Band, though it does not carry their lineage and honors. The 13th Cavalry Band was organized at Fort Meade, South Dakota on 24 May, 1901. It served at various posts and camps worldwide before arriving at Fort Monmouth in August of 1930.
In 1916, while on international border patrol, the 13th Cavalry band saw action against Francisco “Poncho” Villa’s guerrillas in Columbus, New Mexico. Although the band received nine casualties, Poncho Villa’s casualties numbered one-hundred ninety-two.
In late August 1930, shortly after its move to Ft. Monmouth, the 13th Cavalry Regimental Band was formally inactivated and retired. In the same month the U.S Army Signal Corps Band was activated and received personnel and equipment from the 13th Cavalry Band.
In January 1944, the Signal Corps Band was inactivated and the 389th Army Band was formed and activated. It likewise inherited personnel and equipment from the Signal Corps Band.
During World War II, the 389th Army Band was the motivating factor in a campaign that sold more than one million dollars in war bonds for the war effort, earning the band the Meritorious Unit Commendation, 1944-1945.
In its fiftieth year of existence, the AMC Band was transferred to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland (APG). In August of 2005, the band earned the Army Superior Award for exceptional service in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
On 16 August 2006, Chief, Force Structure, and Unit History Branch conferred upon the 389th Army Band the distinctive designation of “U.S. Army Materiel Command Band.” This designation directly associates the band with AMC Headquarters and all of the 65,000 Army Materiel Command military and civilian personnel stationed worldwide.
The AMC Band supports the Army Materiel Command Headquarters, ten AMC Major Subordinate Commands, AMC installations worldwide, Aberdeen Proving Ground Garrison and 20 tenant organizations on APG, including the U.S. Army Ordnance Center and School.
The wide geographical footprint of the AMC Enterprise directly shapes the expeditionary qualities the band must employ. With its five Music Support Teams and combined capabilities, the unit performs over 200 times each year throughout the country and overseas in support of AMC assets, as well as for local military and civilian community functions. Over the past five years the AMC Band has deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, bringing music to those forward deployed in Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Afghanistan.”
Two days ago, the residents of Providence in Huntsville were the last ones to hear this particular band as they played at the Village’s 4th of July celebration. So if they have to disband, I am glad that it happened in North Alabama where this particular band unit started, and that it was on the day we celebrate our independence. There are other bands attached to other bases, but this feels like a hole that no one else could fill. Guys and gals, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your courage, the long hours of practice, and everything you went through to lift our spirits as well as those of our brave service members. We shall miss you.
By: Ali ElizabethTurner