USAFE Band broadens horizons in Africa

Capt. Elizabeth Aptekar
U.S. Air Forces in Europe

SIZANANI VILLAGE, South Africa – Bridging gaps with a language all their own, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe country, rock and pop band Touch ‘N Go, performed in four countries in Africa during a security cooperation tour Aug. 7 to 13.
The band performed free concerts at military, diplomatic and civilian functions throughout the tour, just part of their additional mission to play around the USAFE theater for troop morale functions.
At their first performance in Algiers, Algeria, the band treated the host-nation attendees to a Motown medley, country tunes and some old time rock n’ roll. As a finale, the Algerian air force and Touch ‘N Go bands conducted a “band off”, performing their own version of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” mixing Algerian guitar rhythms with American flare.
After the host-nation dinner, Gen. Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong, USAFE commander, explained what the musical ambassadors bring to the fight.
“My hope is to bring our air forces closer together and make the same kind of music these two bands made,” he said. “Our two nations value many of the same things – freedom, integrity and service before self. I can’t think of a better way to build bonds than through this common language.”
Typically the percussionist for the classical Concert Band as well as a drummer for the Dixieland Band, Staff Sgt. Becky Taylor filled in as drummer for Touch ‘N Go during this tour to deliver the beat behind the music.
“It’s a different experience playing the different styles,” she said. “It’s a little tougher because you’re working with new people and having to learn the tunes in a couple of days. When you’re a part of a band you’re used to being part of that team, and you get comfortable with them.”
Before coming to Europe two years ago, Sergeant Taylor would have never imagined traveling to the places she’s been.
“It’s really amazing. It’s been a neat experience to bring our Western music to the continent of Africa,” she said. “Some people have heard pop and country and some haven’t. It was particularly neat in Algiers, Algeria, to get to share our music and come together to share the universal language. It’s the one wonderful thing about our job – we can go anywhere and speak to people in our own way.”
Now on her fourth time filling in for Touch ‘N Go, Sergeant Taylor feels like an honorary part of the band and said her experience broadens her horizons.
“In our career field, this experience proves what we are expected to do — to be able to step in at a moments notice to play in any particular group,” Sergeant Taylor said. “It’s similar to the AEF (Air Expeditionary Force) concept, where we are flexible and able to fill in where we need to, so the mission is successful no matter who the members of the band are.”