USAF bands told to ‘dump tubas and grab guns’

Rep. Martha McSally (R, Airzona) has told the House Armed Services Committee in a budget debate that ‘we have hundreds of people playing the tuba and clarinet…. If we really had a manning crisis, from my perspective, we would really tell people to put down the tuba and pick up a wrench or a gun.’

The Air Force band programs engage 540 enlisted airmen and 20 officers.

Sign of the times?

usaf band

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    • And the contrabassoon player could double as a bazooka shooter. They look very similar don’t they? But, wait, he or she could shoot the music director by accident…NOT !!!

    • I have quite a few friends that were spared the Vietnam War because they got out of it by playing in US military bands instead. Maybe a few Vietnamese lives were spared as well, though I can’t imagine these musician friends of mine shooting anybody. -a few conductors, maybe.

    • Commentor “Europe” has it absolutely right. Right, as in Rabid, Right Wing, Repressive Republicans.

    • Sadly, Republicans resist common sense arguments that differ from their predetermined viewpoints and they seem to be unrepentant of the actions of the 2nd Bush Admin that have cost the US so much. Republicans see only the failures of Democrats retrospectively. I don’t think I’m making a heated partisan argument here. Objectively, there is an unwillingness among Republicans to learn from failed policies.

  • “I don’t think we could have an army without music.” — Gen. Robert E. Lee

    During the Civil War, the Union employed 28,000 musicians in 618 bands (every regiment was required to have a 24-man ensemble that often marched and played at the rear during assaults). One Union general said, “Music has done more than its share in winning the war.” Incidentally, as the fighting raged on, some musicians were enlisted to help care for the wounded — including assisting in amputations. A little history lesson for the congresswoman.

    • When the Civil war started, instrumental music was a rare and novel thing to hear for most of the rank-and-file soldiers. The civil war had a lot to do with the huge expansion of concert band activity in the US over the next 50 years.

      But today, anyone in the military has already had a life saturated with recorded music and the military band doesn’t fill a void anymore.

  • McSally’s real agenda is to get an obsolete and ancient weapon system (the A-10), which she used to pilot, funded in the Defense Budget. She disparages skilled and dedicated military musicians to further her argument.

    Nothing more here than “pork barrel” and personal interest politics, American-style.

    • The A-10 is neither ancient nor obsolete. It is long in the tooth, but still far younger than other military aircraft such as the B-52 or the U-2 (or more plebeian examples, e.g. P-3 Orion). It has been upgraded over the years, and it does its job better than any manned aircraft proposed to replace it.

      Rep. McSally may be off base with her diatribes against military bands, but she is on the money as far as the Warthog is concerned.

  • U.S. military bands get it from both sides; usually it’s music critics and the folks on Slipped Disc complaining about how the vulgar Americans spend a lot of money on military bands and not much on orchestras and opera. Now they hear from a Philistine congresswoman saying they should turn ploughshares back into swords.

    • Our military bands are the closest thing we have in America to the European system of state-sponsored music.

      Although I am saddened that we as a country, or even at a state level, are unwilling to support our orchestras or other civilian music organizations at more than a token level at best, at least we still have our military bands. That is a lot better than nothing, especially if they help improve the morale of our troops.

  • Aaww yeaah! Gun-slinging Arizona! Let the lady apply for combat service first, trigger happy as she is! She will need combat skills at the upcoming Republican Convention in Cleveland in July. Of course, no USAF band should play there, too dangerous! 🙂

  • Does Ms. McSally even know that some of the musicians in the armed service musical organizations are highly trained professionals, comparable in many ways to players in major symphony orchestras across the country. They’re not spring chickens either. Most would not be eligible for combat.

    With all the idiocy coming out of Arizona recently, this doesn’t surprise me.

  • Much as it pains me to do so, I do believe in giving credit where it is due.

    She is half-right.

    Of course, that half has nothing to do with tubas or clarinets.

    There are huge problems with the military-industrial complex (as President Eisenhower put it).

    The Air Force is attempting to retire a weapon system — the A-10 Thunderbolt II, colloquially and affectionately nicknamed the “Warthog” — for which not only is there not yet a replacement and won’t be for many years, but that its putative short-term replacement (F-35) is alleged to do its job worse at enormously higher costs.

    The Air Force has unofficially hated the A-10 since before it was first built in the 1970s, and does so to this day. Why? Its job is not a glamorous one: close air support. The A-10 was originally built to prevent the Army from seizing the role of close-air support from the Air Force. The A-10 is the product of a turf battle.

    Oddly enough, the plane is one of the great success stories of post-WWII military airplane development. It does its job incredibly effectively, it protects its pilot better than just about any other plane in existence, it has served our country effectively, it has saved countless thousands of lives of U.S. and allied troops, and it was an incredible bargain when it was built and remains so today.

    If Representative McSally had written something like: “Why are we wasting so much money on the F-35 boondoggle when the A-10 does the job better at a fraction of the cost,” I would agree with her, end of sentence.

    Alas, she attacked music and military bands instead — which exist in large part to help boost the morale of those who serve in our military, as she once did.

    Never mind the fact that canceling the entire music program in the Air Force probably wouldn’t pay for one F-35, nor likely make a huge dent in the maintenance of the A-10 program.

    How petty.

  • The woman has made this issue her cause and she has been at it for years. So far she has been largely unsuccessful, though I could not find the full story on her long term campaign against military bands.

    The desire to take a supposed benefit away from some group deemed unworthy or to punish them by destroying them is part of the Republican mindset. She thinks military bands are unnecessary and the opinions of others to the contrary simply don’t matter.

  • Too bad no one has read the entire record of the meeting in which she made the statement regarding musicians.

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