AL ASAD, Iraq -- AL ASAD, Iraq- Constant preparation and hard work paid off for the military personnel who competed in the hard-hitting "Battle of the Bands" held by Morale, Welfare and Recreation at the base theater here August 14.
Five different bands rocked the venue and entertained a capacity crowd of Marines and Sailors in an event that lifted the morale of both the audience and band members, by providing them with a creative and fun outlet to utilize their spare time.
Each band was evaluated by a selected panel of judges, who rated the bands in seven different categories: precision, clarity, talent, vocals, performance, originality, and audience reaction. The winning band members would each receive a $100 gift certificate and a free compact disc.
According to Judy Risch, head coordinator, MWR, after word of the competition spread, bands were formed through various means and granted permission to participate following an audition.
"The planning for this event started two months in advance," said the 38-year-old native of Louisville, Ky. "We posted fliers to get the word out."
"Some of the bands were already formed, while others had to post a flier of their own requesting (additional musicians)," she added. "It was really interesting seeing everyone get together."
"Tryouts were held for each band that wanted to participate," continued Risch, "but it didn't matter; everyone who tried out was allowed to play."
With a packed crowd anxiously waiting in anticipation, the first band to take the stage was Deffen the Pain, followed by fellow rock groups Disposable Heros, Free Beer, Teardrop Red, and finally, Y25.
Although each band gave their best effort, ultimately, only one group could finish on top. After narrowly edging Y25 in the final round, Teardrop Red emerged victorious.
The members of Teardrop Red, drummer, 37-year-old, Orlando, Fla., native Petty Officer 2nd Class Oscar Ortiz, heavy equipment operator, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 14, lead vocalist, 34-year-old Alexandria, La., native Steven Davis, vector controller, Kellogg, Brown and Root, Inc., bassist, 30-year-old Martinsville, Va., native Petty Officer 3rd Class R. Jason McAlexander, construction mechanic, NMCB-14, and lead guitarist, 25-year-old Quad Cities, Iowa, native Lance Cpl. Jason Chrzan, maintenance management specialist, Combat Service Support Company 123, Combat Service Support Battalion 7, 1st Force Service Support Group were thrilled to win the competition.
According to Ortiz, the event isn't the first show Teardrop Red has performed and the group plans on participating in similar events in the future.
"We've been playing together since the beginning of July," said Ortiz. "We've already got gigs scheduled for Labor Day." Teardrop Red has played at different special events like (the Al Asad Independence Day celebration), and other MWR events all over base."
Even though they've only been together for a short time, the band's drummer feels that Teardrop Red has shown a lot of potential.
"I think that there's a lot of talent in this band," Ortiz pointed out. "We have five original songs that we play and we know about 19 cover songs. It's great how we just clicked."
Ortiz also feels that playing in the band helps group members alleviate the stress of being in a war zone, as well as lifting the spirits of those who hear them perform..
"I've got a wife and two daughters," said Ortiz. "If it wasn't for this escape from reality, I don't know how we would have survived out here.
"The other guys feel the same way. But we're having a lot of fun, and helping build morale," he continued. "That's what it's all about."
On another positive note, Risch considers her first major event as head coordinator a huge success since arriving here only two months ago.
"I've already had people come up and ask, 'When's the next (event)?'" she emphasized. "(Al Asad air base has) a new crew of (servicemembers) coming in, so we'll probably have another (battle of the bands event) in November or December."
The crowd noise and enthusiasm shown throughout the evening by those in attendance clearly pleased Risch.
"The band members had a real good time; the people who attended had a real good time; even the judges told me they enjoyed it," she commented.
"I'm really happy with how it all turned out," Risch smiled. "It went smoother than anything I've seen out here."