The key to our current National Defense Strategy is integrating allies and partners across all domains of conflict. The president is keenly focused on the IndoPacifc and his strategy intends to- “Advance a free and open IndoPacific that is more connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient.” Tactical exercises with our international partners have broadened in scope to be demonstrations of political and economic cooperation. The Garuda Shield exercise, which has been conducted for 15 years, became Super Garuda Shield. In the past it was only the U.S. and Indonesia, with a few observer nations. Super Garuda Shield included 14 nations either as participants or observers. U.S. Army Pacific Command brought a wide variety of units including Infantry, Artillery, Aviation, and Engineers. For the first time the 25th Infantry Division (ID) Band sent nine Soldiers to support the exercise. The inclusion of the band meant a greater opportunity to bolster the relationship between the U.S. and Indonesian militaries, but also make new connections with the civilian population surrounding the training areas.
Initially, the 25th ID Tropic Lightning Brass Band was expected to participate in the opening and closing ceremonies, which would require learning Indonesian military music and integrating with the Tentara Nasional Indonesia Angkatan Darat (TNI Army) Band. Fortunately almost all military bands around the world use western European music notation, so the 25th ID Band members could learn the music quickly. They also learned a variety of music from the United States, including artists such as Taylor Swift, A-ha, Lil Nas X, Blackstreet, and James Brown. They also included the traditional “When the Saints Go Marching In,” which represents America’s unique artistic heritage of jazz. The plan included two troop morale performances, but the mission would expand significantly upon arrival at Baturaja Training Camp.
Attempts to plan community outreach performances were unsuccessful through the U.S. State Department and Indonesian Embassy. Public Affairs officials from 7th Infantry Division and 3rd Brigade, 25th ID, linked the band with members of the 416th Civil Affairs Battalion and a Psychological Operations Soldier. This multifaceted team used their expertise to conduct three engagements in five days, developing lasting partnerships with the local community in the Baturaja Area.
The first event on August 6th was at Taman Tani Merdeka Park in the Town of Martapura, just a few minutes from the TNI Army Base. Over 2000 local citizens enjoyed the band’s music along with food and craft vendors of all kinds. The chance for the community to interact with American Soldiers was highly effective in communicating the importance of military cooperation and thanking them for supporting their armed forces during the exercise.
On the 8th, the band was invited to play for a variety of school groups at the Mayor of Oku Timur’s office building. The TNI Army Base lies within the Mayor’s district so much of the local support for the exercise came from the people of his town. This event was especially important since the band got to connect with elementary to high school level students.
The band’s last community event was a performance at Baturaja University along with their marching band. The University Director Ir Hj. Lindawati hosted a planning session on August 10, where we learned much about the school and how the event would flow. A somewhat more restrained audience enjoyed the marching band and the 25th ID Brass Band performances, which of course were followed by many pictures. A short question and answer session added a touch of educational engagement and inspired students as they registered for their next semester of classes.
The Tropic Lightning Brass Band’s two morale performances at the makeshift bazaar allowed for Soldiers from the U.S., Australia, and Singapore to have fun and relax along with local Indonesian contractors supporting the exercise. On less than 12 hours notice the band put together a set of appropriate music for a luncheon hosted by TNI Armed Forces Commander GEN Andika Perkasa. GEN Andika was most generous with his praise of the group, which set a proper atmosphere for the event. From official ceremonies to impromptu street performances, music was an essential part of making the exercise successful.
Super Garuda Shield 2022 certainly increased tactical interoperability across all domains of battle. Through the integration of Civil Affairs, PSYOPS, Public Affairs, and Army Bands- Super Garuda Shield also increased the awareness of and demonstrated commitment to a free and open IndoPacific to the people of Indonesia. These efforts are under-resourced but can have lifelong impacts on small groups of people. The person to person connection through music is what makes the difference in lasting commitments to democratic alliances. Similar engagements are happening throughout Eastern Europe to renew our commitment to NATO allies. The Army currently struggles to maintain a full active-duty force, with shortfalls across many jobs. This has caused continual reductions in band personnel over the last 20 years. Finding new solutions to increase music related capability will be of benefit both for troop morale and maintaining strong partnerships. Expanding opportunities for amateur musicians (such as the 82nd Airborne Chorus and U.S. Army Europe and Africa Chorus), will allow the Army to still have robust music capability without increasing the total active force. These amateur musicians must always be under the purview of the Army Band program so as to maintain professionalism and the highest standards expected of Soldiers.
Music has an undeniable power to build connections (and reinforce divisions if not carefully employed). Integrating Band operations into international exercises should be standard practice, and units such as the 25th ID Band have shown the effect on the mission. The synchronization of all information-related capabilities, including music, will help achieve U.S. strategic effects and provide tactical advantages unobtainable by any other means.
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Most people across the world enjoy listening, performing, composing, and dancing to music. In much of that music there is a low-frequency component call the bass. This part of the sound is the literal base for all the other sounds that help us understand it as music. The bass provides the connection between the rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic components of a musical piece. People often describe the bass as something they feel rather than hear. Our ears can only hear frequencies as low as 20 hertz (Hz), the lowest key on the piano is just above that at 27.5 Hz. When that note is played, it might not sound like much more than a thud, but when all the higher sounds are added its importance becomes clearer.
In a study by Michael Hove et. al., participants were better able to tap along with low frequency sounds compared to higher ones. That is to say, the participants were more accurate in synchronizing their finger taps to bass notes. This ability is traced to the cochlea of the inner ear, which is very early in the auditory pathway to process sound. It is a shared common trait among all people across the world. Higher frequency sounds are processed once they enter the brain, so we are better able to determine the pitch and relationships to other sounds. So how does this relate to being a leader?
Modern leaders both in and outside the military empower the people in the organization. Gone are the days of the authoritarian CEO or commander who demands respect and obedience through fear. The work may still get done, but the long-term costs of stress, burnout, and lack of job satisfaction, ultimately result in poorer organizational performance. Empowering people is about serving their needs through the creation of a framework that takes into account all the variety of skills and cultural backgrounds present in a team. This idea of the leader serving the needs of their team is called Servant Leadership, and it has a decades-long history.
According to the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership– “Servant leadership is a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world.” The key aspects of this philosophy are sharing power, putting the needs of others first, and developing people. The servant leader is at the bottom of an upside-down pyramid, where the workers/followers are at the top.
In this upside-down pyramid, the workers are all the melodies and hooks that our brain spends the most time processing and remembering. The middle of the pyramid contains all the supporting elements such as the harmony and sound effects which enhance the music. Finally, at the bottom is the bass, which is processed the fastest, and almost unconsciously. It is foundational to the music’s structure and its enjoyment, but we don’t spend much time thinking about it. Unless you are a bass player you probably don’t really notice the bass in a song, but your body responds to it in a subconscious way.
Servant leaders are bass players. They share their rhythmic role with drummers and integrate with the other parts of the song. Leaders can empower their people to make decisions, without going through multiple levels of approval. In the military it is often difficult to share leadership. The positional and rank-based structure always leaves the final accountability within the commander’s hands. However, by letting others make decisions while assuming the risk for those decisions, commanders remove the ‘fear of failure’ mindset. This allows the members of the organization to share in its decision-making, building trust and confidence along the way.
They put the needs of the song before their own, even if that means choosing not to play. The song is the organization and its people, servant leaders sacrifice their desires for the good of the group. This can mean leaving space for people to bring their ideas forward, and the leader tabling their priorities for the benefit of the organization’s mission.
They develop the song by slightly altering their contribution so the other parts can be even more engaging. Servant leaders influence the organization in a foundational, subconscious way so there isn’t a need to call attention to their status as a leader- it is felt. That feeling is understood through the development of the organization’s people. When they take ownership of tasks and advance in their own careers, then the servant leader has done their job. It is not necessarily something the leader directed, but rather establishing the philosophical culture that allowed for the people to flourish.
Although not traditionally thought of as a leading element, the bass in music in analogous to the servant leader philosophy. It is often hard to describe in words why we like a song or feel good about working in an organization. It just seems right. Serving the people in the group is what makes for high-performing organizations and memorable music. Challenge yourself to be the bass player on your team!