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NEWS | June 28, 2022

US, Philippine Air Force Bands Participate in Virtual Subject Matter Expert exchange

By Tech. Sgt. Hailey Haux Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Airmen from the U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific, along with participants from the U.S. Band of the Golden West out of Travis Air Force Base, California, met virtually with members from the Philippine Air Force (PAF) Band for a subject matter expert exchange (SMEE), June 22.

U.S. Air Force Airmen often conduct SMEEs with other nations in order to build relationships and exchange best practices and procedures with each other. With a mission of Honor, Inspire, and Connect; connections are the cornerstone for the U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific.

“As a cliché, music is truly a universal language and has been for hundreds and thousands of years,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Jason Plosch, U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific director. “It is also true in a military setting. When in person, we can sit side-by-side with others that don't share a same spoken language, but we can all read music. It is tip-of-the-spear when it comes to truly working together toward a common goal.”

The first portion of the SMEE gave each group a chance to brief their mission overviews, how they operate and how they’re structured.

“Events like this give us the chance to showcase our skills and talents to the U.S. band and of course, build a life-long partnership and share the love for music,” said Philippine Air Force Lt. JP Bibon, PAF Band executive officer. “We are eager to gain more tips and techniques on how we can better improve our current skill set in playing musical instruments and hope that this is just the first of the many collaborations that will take place as we go along.”

Through events like this SMEE, each organization was able to see how they are similar in many ways as well as what they do differently.

“This is a conference; a shared master class if you will, and we hope to learn from each other, get to know one another and build upon the relationships this year so next year we will be able to do something more in-person and have the ground work already laid out,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Dustin Trimble, PACAF Band operations section chief.

More than 75 people attended the SMEE with a few members being from the U.S. Band of the Golden West out of Travis Air Force Base. They were in attendance to augment on instruments the U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific doesn’t have such as the trombone, flute, French horn, etc.

“Music truly is a universal language and has such a special capacity for bringing people together on a very human level,” said Trimble. “It enhances our lives and our relationships with others. It serves as a wonderful common ground on which diverse peoples can relate to one another, opening doors to communication and overcoming cultural, political and interpersonal barriers.”

While the PAF-U.S. bands haven’t played together in recent years, the U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific had a small contingent of bandsmen at Clark Air Base, Philippines before they were relocated to Yokota Air Base, Japan in July 1988.

During the exchange, the bands had breakout sessions in order to have discussions about specific instruments like brass, woodwinds and strings. This allowed each team to ask questions about particular techniques.

“Engagements like this are invigorating in many ways,” Trimble said. “These last two years have presented many challenges, but as Airmen, we hope to connect with the Airman professionals of the PAF Band through our common love of music and forge a lasting relationship upon which we can build years to come. It is remarkable to me that our current technology affords us the platform to communicate across great distances in lieu of face-to-face interaction and we are excited for this opportunity to collaborate.”

The brass breakout session the SMEEs from the PAF, U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific and U.S. Band of the Golden West shared dialogue about their daily practice techniques, tips and tricks to breathing, what a typical day looks like and the nuances of staying in shape with their particular instrument.

“Post-COVID, this is a great way to get back at building partnerships, comparing how each unit organizes, trains, and equips, and hopefully glean some best practices from each other,” Plosch said. “It is also a solid way to continue to build our partnerships and friendships between our two nations in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Both nations have expressed the hopes of being able to work together in the future—building upon the relationships they have begun with this SMEE.

“On the side of the PAF Band, we are looking forward to an opportunity to work alongside the U.S. bands sharing and playing music together trying to ease the challenges brought by the pandemic,” Bibon said. “Hoping that through music, we’ll be able to uplift the morale and well-being of our personnel.”

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