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Hidden talents; Luke Airmen build resilience through music

Twenty-four U.S. Air Force active-duty members, Reserve Citizen Airmen, spouses and Department of Defense civilians have formed a musical group called the Fighter Country Talent Squad. It all began with Lt. Col. Roger Greenwood, 944th Operations Group Detachment 2 director of operations, and his 28-year long passion for playing the guitar.

Katie Babbitt, spouse, sings July 1, 2021, during the FreedomFest 4th of July celebration event at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. The Fighter Country Talent Squad musical group is comprised of two bands with U.S. Air Force active duty, Reserve Citizen Airmen, spouses, and Department of Defense civilians. (U.S. Air Force photo taken by Master Sgt. Louis Vega Jr.)

Twenty-four U.S. Air Force active-duty members, Reserve Citizen Airmen, spouses and Department of Defense civilians have formed a musical group called the Fighter Country Talent Squad. It all began with Lt. Col. Roger Greenwood, 944th Operations Group Detachment 2 director of operations, and his 28-year long passion for playing the guitar.

2nd Lt. Kristin Rowe, 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron section commander and Master Sgt. Mark Eyman, 944th Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems supervisor, sing a song together July 1, 2021, during the FreedomFest 4th of July celebration event at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. Rowe is a band member and has had an active role as the liaison between the band and the U.S. Air Force; while Eyman is a Reserve Citizen Airman and one of the most experienced band members in the group. (U.S. Air Force photo taken by Master Sgt. Louis Vega Jr.)

Twenty-four U.S. Air Force active-duty members, Reserve Citizen Airmen, spouses and Department of Defense civilians have formed a musical group called the Fighter Country Talent Squad. It all began with Lt. Col. Roger Greenwood, 944th Operations Group Detachment 2 director of operations, and his 28-year long passion for playing the guitar.

Master Sgt. Melinda Charlton, 944th Force Support Squadron non-commissioned officer in charge of career development, sings July 1, 2021, during the FreedomFest 4th of July celebration event at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. Charlton is one of twenty-four U.S. Air Force active-duty members, Reserve Citizen Airmen, spouses, and Department of Defense civilians who have formed a musical group called the Fighter Country Talent Squad. (U.S. Air Force photo taken by Master Sgt. Louis Vega Jr.)

Twenty-four U.S. Air Force active-duty members, Reserve Citizen Airmen, spouses and Department of Defense civilians have formed a musical group called the Fighter Country Talent Squad. It all began with Lt. Col. Roger Greenwood, 944th Operations Group Detachment 2 director of operations, and his 28-year long passion for playing the guitar.

A Squier Mini Precision Dakota Red bass guitar sits on stage July 1, 2021, during the FreedomFest 4th of July celebration event at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. (U.S. Air Force photo taken by Master Sgt. Louis Vega Jr.)

Twenty-four U.S. Air Force active-duty members, Reserve Citizen Airmen, spouses and Department of Defense civilians have formed a musical group called the Fighter Country Talent Squad. It all began with Lt. Col. Roger Greenwood, 944th Operations Group Detachment 2 director of operations, and his 28-year long passion for playing the guitar.

Katie Babbitt, spouse and Tony Baril, 56th Force Support Squadron Department of Defense civilian, wave at the crowd July 1, 2021, during the FreedomFest 4th of July celebration event at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. The event was their first big “gig” together where they performed as Terminal Leave. (U.S. Air Force photo taken by Master Sgt. Louis Vega Jr.)

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. --

Music is a cultural aspect universally found in all human societies. It can transport an individual, spark emotions, and help people unwind from a long, hard day. Hidden within communities are musicians who are waiting to share their musical talents with the world. A group of service members and dependents recognized their shared artistic connection and came together to form a musical group at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.

Twenty-four U.S. Air Force active-duty members, Reserve Citizen Airmen, spouses and Department of Defense civilians have formed a musical group called the Fighter Country Talent Squad. It all began with Lt. Col. Roger Greenwood, 944th Operations Group Detachment 2 director of operations, and his 28-year long passion for playing the guitar.

“Music has helped me through some long deployments and now I use it regularly as a stress reliever,” said Greenwood. “I played recreationally for years and in 2018 when I separated from active-duty I decided to dedicate more time to playing the guitar.”

While listening to her husband play his guitar, Teresa Greenwood, wife of Lt. Col. Greenwood, was convinced there were others in the community who shared her husband’s enthusiasm for music. She shared the idea of forming a band with her husband and together they decided to see if it could become a reality.

“I went on social media to find people who were interested in a jam session,” said Teresa. “I put a simple message out on Facebook saying, ‘I’m putting a band together, anyone interested let me know.’”

The post sparked interest immediately. Within 24-hours they had enough interest to form a complete band but according to Teresa, an unexpected thing happened.

“More than three times the expected number of people contacted me looking to be part of what is now our music group,” said Teresa.

Teresa spoke with her friend and neighbor, 2nd Lt. Kristin Rowe, 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron section commander, about the idea of forming a band. Rowe responded by stating how wonderful it would be to provide stage time for the group. Through Rowe’s connections with the 56th Force Support Squadron from her previous position as the community services deputy, she made inquiries about the likelihood of getting a venue on base.

“I knew of events that were happening throughout the year on base to get these folks stage time,” said Rowe. “They [band members] just needed the opportunity to shine and bring their talents to the forefront so everybody could see what they’re capable of doing.”

In just a few short weeks after the initial Facebook post, auditions, and a couple practices the group already had a venue booked.

“We found out there were numerous events on base that can potentially utilize live music,” said Teresa. “The whole group had the opportunity to perform at the Freedomfest Celebration.”

FreedomFest is an annual 4th of July celebration event held on Luke AFB. It was the group’s first big “gig” together where they all performed. One Reserve Citizen Airman and band member shared his thoughts about the opportunity to play at the celebration.

“Playing for my fellow Airmen and their families was a great experience,” said Master Sgt. Mark Eyman, 944th Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems supervisor. “FreedomFest took me back to when I was a high schooler and I used to play gigs on base when my dad was active duty in the Air Force.”

The 24-member group, known collectively as the Fighter Country Talent Squad, is comprised of two separate bands. One band is called Soundwave which plays an eclectic assortment of music genres including country and Disney-orientated music. The second band is named Terminal Leave and they play classic rock and modern hard rock.

Providing a creative outlet for people in the military with a passion or interest for music to come together is top priority for the musical group.

“People mention Tops and Blue with nostalgia,” said Teresa. “They miss it. We thought it would be wonderful if all the bases around the nation had one designated point of contact to say, ‘we are forming a music group, anyone interested, come.’ It boosts morale and creates safe environments for people to express themselves musically.”

Tops and Blue was a song-and-dance troupe, which played a mixture of modern pop, classic rock and oldies. They toured and played at various U.S. Air Force installations before disbanding in 2016.

“There is something to be said about having an entertainment group that’s from the base you are at,” said Eyman. “You have that pride, like ‘those are our guys’ and you’re more of a participant of your own entertainment.”

Where and when the group will play next is currently undetermined however, according to Rowe, they are expecting to perform at future base events and the local community.

“We are already forming new playlists and everyone in the group is optimistic and excited to perform again.” said Rowe.

Greenwood expressed his enjoyment in finding people with similar musical interests as well as playing his first ‘gig.’

“I found the idea of joining other musicians with a passion for playing and creating music exciting,” said Greenwood. “I’ve never played in front of an audience before, so I definitely had some nerves leading up to and during the performance. But once we got on stage, it was really satisfying to be able to perform the songs we had worked so hard on and share them with the audience. Hopefully, people enjoyed listening to them as much as we enjoyed playing them.”