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Academy Band rocks soldiers in Mosul

CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE MAREZ, Iraq – Spc. Matthew Coons, a motor transport operator assigned to Forward Support Company E, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, thanks Air Force Tech Sgt. Stephen Brannen, guitarist and vocalist of the U.S. Air Force’s Central band, “Wild Blue Country,” after the group performed for deployed Fort Hood troopers at the Contingency Operating Site Marez main gymnasium, April 29, 2011. Coons, a native of Tipton, Mo., and other 4th AAB troopers gave the Air Force band a standing ovation after the live performance. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Terence Ewings, 4th AAB PAO, 1st Cav. Div., USD-N)

Tech. Sgt. Stephen Brannen talks with Army Spc. Matthew Coons after a Wild Blue Country performance at Contingency Operating Site Marez, Iraq, April 29, 2011. The group, deployed from the Air Force Academy Band at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., received a standing ovation at the end of its performance. Sergeant Brannen, a Nashville, Tenn., native, is a guitarist and vocalist for Wild Blue Country. Specialist Coons is a motor transport operator with Forward Support Company E, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. (U.S. Army photo/Spc. Terence Ewings)

CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE MAREZ, Iraq -- The U.S. Air Forces Central band "Wild Blue Country" performed for Soldiers assigned to the 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, and civilian contractors at the Contingency Operating Base Marez main gym April 29.

Wild Blue Country is part of the U.S. Air Force Academy Band, stationed at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

Under the gym's bright fluorescent lights, the band performed popular country songs to provide entertainment and boost the morale of servicemembers deployed from Fort Hood, Texas.

"It's nice to be able to relax and enjoy some good American music," said Army Spc. Matthew Coons, a motor transport operator assigned to Forward Support Company E, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th AAB. He and Army Spc. Donald McDonald arrived early to the gym to ensure they had good seats to get the most out of the live concert experience.

Both Soldiers usually work long shifts, either conducting maintenance on tactical vehicles in the motor pool or conducting mounted patrols to deliver equipment and supplies to different remote installations and patrol bases across Ninewa province.

"This is the first concert I've had the chance to attend, and it's great to see these guys come over here and play for us," Specialist Coons said.

The small crowd of listeners who initially arrived at the start of the performance grew into a large audience that filled the bleachers and surrounded the basketball court housing the concert. Listening to popular songs like Toby Keith's "American Soldier" and "My Kinda Party" by Jason Aldean, the Soldiers swayed, shouted and sang along with the country band. After the band played a rendition of "Sweet Home Alabama", Soldiers and civilians joined one another for a line dance on the basketball court.

"Playing for the troops is one of my favorite things to do because it gives these guys a chance to relax and have a little piece of home here," said Senior Master Sgt. Jerome Oddo, Wild Blue Country's bass guitarist, vocalist and superintendent.

Wild Blue Country has performed for deployed servicemembers and civilians at several locations in Southwest Asia, Afghanistan and Germany and is currently on a 10-day tour to entertain service members stationed in Iraq.

"Troops are under a lot of pressure in a deployed environment," Sergeant Oddo said. "We just want to be able to help them recharge and lift their spirits with some good country music."

After their performance, the audience gave the band a standing ovation, and Army Lt. Col. Monte Rone, the 4th AAB executive officer, presented the band members with a certificate of appreciation.

Prior to departing the gymnasium, Soldiers had the opportunity to take a picture with the group and receive a copy of the band's autographed CD.

"It was nice to receive this kind of entertainment in between our daily missions," Specialist McDonald said. "It made my day."