Friday, February 15, 2008

Marines bring the band to Africa

By Michelle Tan - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Feb 15, 2008 9:25:05 EST

DAMERJOG, Djibouti – Most of the kids couldn’t speak English, but they had no trouble dancing along to the American music that filled their village.

Members of “Thunder Roll,” one of Central Air Force’s two bands, performed for the kids for more than an hour Monday morning, playing everything from The Clash to Smash Mouth.

The village of Damerjog is less than 20 minutes from Camp Lemonier, the primary U.S. military base here, and the Marines who conduct base security often visit Damerjog and the other surrounding villages in an effort to get to know the local residents.

The Marines brought the band, which belongs to the Georgia Air National Guard, to Damerjog for Monday’s performance.

“It’s all about relationships,” said Marine Capt. Christopher Crim, commanding officer of B Battery, 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, of Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Crim and his Marines visit four local villages at least once a week. They play soccer with the kids, set up movie nights, hand out school supplies, help repair water reservoirs and simply spend time with the villagers.

“The purpose of this is quite simple: to gain an appreciation of their culture and build relationships,” he said. “The simple things go the farthest, school supplies, flip flops, things that are useful to everyday life.”

Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Larry Winner, one of the band members, got into the mix and danced with the children during the performance.

“At first I was a little apprehensive, but we saw how they were reacting,” Winner said. “When you look into their eyes you could see a connection. The music was just lighting them up.”

Winner said he was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic reception the band received.

“Music truly is the universal language,” he said. “That’s an old cliché but it’s true. Everyone can relate to the beat.”

Audio and photos from the bands performance

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