29th Division Band stays busy with performances at home, abroad

Soldiers from the Clifton Forge-based 29th Division Band pose for a group photo while in France for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in June 2014.  In just eight days in France, the musician Soldiers traveled more than 1,000 miles and performed 22 musical missions. (Photo by Lt. Col. Tim Donnellan, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

Soldiers from the Clifton Forge-based 29th Division Band pose for a group photo while in France for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in June 2014. In just eight days in France, the musician Soldiers traveled more than 1,000 miles and performed 22 musical missions. (Photo by Lt. Col. Tim Donnellan, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

SANDSTON, Va. – It’s been a busy and historic year for the Virginia National Guard’s Clifton Forge-based 29th Division Band, which has performed more than 60 musical missions for more than 120,000 people throughout Virginia and beyond in 2014.

“This past year has been ‘high optempo’ for the 29th Division Band,” said 1st Sgt. David A. Helms. “From performing various change of command ceremonies, NASCAR races, gubernatorial inauguration to even supporting missions on two different continents at the exact same time.”

An ensemble from the 29th Division Band performs April 12, 2014, at the Fort Pickett change of command ceremony. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

An ensemble from the 29th Division Band performs April 12, 2014, at the Fort Pickett change of command ceremony. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

In June, nine members of the band joined nearly 20 other members of the 29th Infantry Division in Normandy, France for the 70th anniversary of D-Day. In just eight days in France, the musician Soldiers traveled more than 1,000 miles and performed 22 musical missions.

While a portion of the band was overseas, the rest of the unit performed for the D-Day ceremony June 6, 2014, at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va. The missions in Bedford and Vierville, France happened at the exact same time, according to Sgt. 1st Class Richard Carr, readiness noncommissioned officer for the 29th Division Band.

“This showed that the 29th Division Band could be in two different places and still perform the musical support required of us,” Carr said.

Earlier in the year, the band supported the 72nd Virginia gubernatorial inauguration in Richmond in January and performed at the STP 500 NASCAR race in Martinsville in March.

The band also performed for six different Virginia National Guard change of command ceremonies, two Commonwealth ChalleNGe graduations, and Memorial Day ceremonies in both Amelia, Va., and Dublin, Va.

In addition, the band supported the Virginia National Guard’s Military Funeral Honors Program by performing live bugle on nearly 100 missions around the state.

In all, the band traveled more than 8,000 miles this year without any accidents or loss of equipment.

Soldiers from the 29th Division Band conduct weapons qualification April 12, 2014, at Fort Pickett. In addition to performing and providing music around the state, Soldiers in the band must also conduct annual training and meet their Soldier training requirements. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Soldiers from the 29th Division Band conduct weapons qualification April 12, 2014, at Fort Pickett. In addition to performing and providing music around the state, Soldiers in the band must also conduct annual training and meet their Soldier training requirements. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

“The 29th Division Band continues to be a valuable asset to the commanding general and an extremely effective marketing tool for the Virginia Army National Guard,” said Lt. Col. Scott Bartlett, commander of Headquarters Battalion, 29th Infantry Division.

The band consists of 34 enlisted Soldiers and one chief warrant officer. Its mission is to support the Virginia National Guard with musical performances around the state. But the band members are still Soldiers in the Virginia Guard. Therefore they not only have to stay musically proficient, they need to be ready to fulfill their Soldier tasks. In addition to all their travels and musical performances this year, the band members also found time during drill weekends and annual training to qualify with their assigned weapon, maintain their physical fitness and complete various mandatory Army training requirements.

“Being a member of the 29th Division Band this past year was very challenging but also very rewarding,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jim Bradshaw, a trombone player and assistant conductor. “It was a challenge trying to meet all the performance demands that were set before us while keeping up the high standards we expect every time the band performs for the public. However all the band members rose to the challenge, making our year successful and meaningful for Soldiers in the National Guard, family members and all Virginians.”

In addition to the full band, the 29th Division Band contains 18 different musical performance teams. These include the concert band, marching band, ceremonial band, rock band, jazz ensemble, jazz combo, brass ensemble, brass quintet, saxophone ensemble, clarinet ensemble, flute ensemble, trombone ensemble, an F horn/euphonium ensemble, the fife and drum, the color guard and a sound reinforcement team.

As the newly appointed first sergeant of the band, Helms said it’s an honor to serve with such a great group of Soldiers.

“They are always professional and exceeding the standard put before them in all aspects,” he said. “We look forward to challenges of the upcoming year, and will continue to lead the way in music performance.”

Soldiers of the 29th Division Band provide ceremonial music at the observance of the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy June 6, 2014, at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va. At the exact same time, members of the 29th Division Band were performing music at D-Day anniversary ceremonies in Vierville, France.  (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Soldiers of the 29th Division Band provide ceremonial music at the observance of the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy June 6, 2014, at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va. At the exact same time, members of the 29th Division Band were performing music at D-Day anniversary ceremonies in Vierville, France. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)