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1st Marine Division Band members reinforce ‘every Marine a rifleman’

7 Feb 2013 | Lance Cpl. Joseph Scanlan 1st Marine Division

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Marines serving with the 1st Marine Division Band work around the clock to keep up with the high tempo of the many ceremonies and events held by the division.

For a few of the band members, playing their instruments was not their only duty while serving with 1st Marine Division. Sergeant Alex Garcia, a drummer and a native of San Bernardino, Calif., was one of the few Marine musicians who was able to deploy to Afghanistan on a mission that did not require a drum.

Garcia and a few members of the band deployed with Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division (Forward), to Helmand province, Afghanistan, in early 2012. Based on Camp Leatherneck, they served various billets with the division’s detachment, none of which involved playing their instruments.

“Everyone out there was assigned to different jobs and came from different parts of the Marine Corps, but over there we were all riflemen first and foremost,” Garcia said.

Garcia served as a member of the Camp Leatherneck guard force, searching Afghans and other foreign workers for weapons and drugs at the base’s entry control points.

Garcia said not all band members in the Marine Corps have the privilege of deploying to a combat zone.

Upon graduation from the School of Music in Virginia Beach, Va., Marine musicians can request to be sent to the 1st Marine Division Band, one of the few deployable band units. For some band members, a deployment was something they had wanted to be a part of for years.

“I was initially shocked and in disbelief when I found out the news,” said Sgt. Camilo Osuna, a euphonium player and a native of Calexico, Calif. “I had been trying to deploy since Operation Iraqi Freedom during my first enlistment. I almost missed Operation Enduring Freedom too, but I was glad that I finally got my chance.”

During his deployment, Osuna served as the facilities chief for the Marines living on Camp Leatherneck, participated in escort missions, handled detainees and was the chief Marine Corps Martial Arts Program instructor on Camp Leatherneck.

“I teach combat mindset to countless Marines as a martial arts instructor trainer,” Osuna said. “I had the right mindset as soon as I arrived. Whatever they needed me to do or whatever it required, I was ready.”

Marine Corps band members typically hit the ground running upon graduation from the School of Music. Aside from annual training, Marine musicians may rarely be able to perform their first and foremost job – that of a rifleman.

“It was a great opportunity being able to see the other side of being a Marine compared to playing my instrument every day,” said Sgt. Connor Jennings, a trombone player and a native of Torrington, Conn. “Being able to deploy across the world to do a job I rarely get to do was the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Soon after Jennings arrived to Camp Leatherneck, 11th Marine Regiment became short-staffed and needed a Marine to join the guard force. Jennings immediately took the opportunity to guard the base’s perimeter for the remainder of his deployment.

With the 1st Marine Division Band members now back from deployment, they have returned to the high tempo of training and performing at division ceremonies on Camp Pendleton and in surrounding communities.

“I was a little rusty playing my instrument when I got back because I had only played it during one ceremony throughout the entire deployment,” Garcia said.

The band is scheduled to perform at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido, Calif., Feb 8. The event is free to the public and in celebration of 1st Marine Division’s 72nd anniversary.


1st Marine Division