3rd MAW Band brings seasoned harmony to war zone

12 Sep 2004 | Cpl. Joel A. Chaverri

The blaring of horns and beating of drums echoed here as the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band warmed up for the their first performance since arriving in Iraq.

Charged with the task of motivating the Marines, Sailors and Soldiers here with their patriotic brand of harmony, the Marine Corps musicians were anxious to play during the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force change of command ceremony Sep. 12.

Following a powerful performance that garnered the band praise from delighted onlookers, it was obvious that they accomplished their mission, despite having not performed for an extended period of time prior to the event. 

"We haven't played in a couple of months," said band member Sgt. Eric L.  Harris, tuba player,  "but we were all pretty confident that we would do well."

Having served with the band field for 10 years, the 29-year-old has gained his considerable confidence from past experiences.

"We practice so much that (performing) becomes like second nature," said the native of Los Angeles. "The (band's period of inactivity) doesn't really effect the quality of our performance too much." 

According to one Marine, even with the added anxiety of playing in the volatile environment here, the band gave an impressive performance.

"With all the challenges of playing while in a war zone, we did exceptionally well," said band officer-in-charge Chief Warrant Officer 2 Thomas P. Mangan. "We're not exactly thrilled to have rockets shot at us, but the experience and (positive crowd response) is very rewarding."

Although he has worked in the band field for more than 20 years, Mangan has yet to grow tired of his profession.

"For me it's like a hobby," said the native of North Huntingdon, Pa. "I'll quit when it starts to become more like a job."

Known for making precision movements and playing faultless notes, the band is in high demand to perform for numerous of events, even though many outside of the Corps don't know they exist, Mangan offered.

"We play anywhere from 350 to 400 gigs a year," said the 37-year-old. "Unfortunately, not a lot of people have even heard of us. When I tell someone I'm with the (3rd MAW) band they'll usually say, 'The Marine Corps has a band?'"

Providing melodious composition for a ceremony as significant as the I MEF change of command is just one of the many performances band members look forward to participating in each year.

"It's really exciting to get a chance to play for such high profile events," said Cpl. Zachary A. Sutton, percussionist, who was with the band recently when they performed at another highly publicized event.

"We performed at (former U. S. President, Ronald W. Reagan's) funeral," said the 20-year-old from Marietta, Ga. "It's an honor that I'll never forget."

Maintaining strict discipline and military bearing throughout their performances, while following the sharp commands of the bandmaster and band officer, the 3rd MAW ensemble is capable of pulling off the immense task of playing a variety musical arrangements at key moments of an event.

"It requires a lot of hard work to (put on a quality performance)," said 37-year-old Mangan. "These guys have a lot of talent and the amount of versatility they have is incredible."

Though their primary mission in Iraq is to provide security for the 3rd MAW Tactical Air Command Center, the musicians are always striving to become better and maintain the reputation of professionalism and excellence that has come to be associated with Marine Corps bands.

"Back in the rear, we are practicing every day and constantly challenging ourselves with new and harder (music) literature," said Mangan. "Whether playing for a 1,000 people or just one, we always give 100 percent."