Soldiers in Afghanistan Pass time with Music
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Todd Chisum of Collinsville, Okla., combat adviser with the Stability Transition Team at Forward Operating Base Gamberi tunes one of the eight guitars donated by Todd Cooke, owner of the Guitar House in Tulsa, Okla., Oct. 11. Chisum ensures the maintenance of the guitars after meeting with others for the guitar class. The class meets several times a week to learn new songs and go over the basics of guitar playing. Military Photo by Spc. Leslie Goble
By Spc. Leslie Goble
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Musical likes are as varied as the instruments used to create the notes. For one Forward Operating Base in southern Laghman province, a group of soldiers have found a common instrument through a generous donation and now, are learning how to play music.
Music can be used for so many different things. Some people play music to relieve stress. Some use music to tell their stories about life in a warzone, how they want to go back home, or just to play for the fun of it.
Soldiers from the Oklahoma Army National Guard, recently received eight guitars for use at Forward Operating Base Gamberi to learn music and help relieve stress.
When guitar classes started at FOB Gamberi people were required to bring their own guitar, so they had to order guitars and have them sent from home.
“People were asking where they could get guitars to come to practice,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Todd Chisum, a combat adviser with the Stability Transition Team from the Oklahoma Army National Guard.
The guitars were donated by Todd Cooke with Guitar House in Tulsa, Okla., and soldiers made use of them right away.
“This is a good example of a business that supports the troops,” said Chisum. “He went above and beyond.We never asked for a donation.”
Because of the growing interest in obtaining guitars for classes, Chisum sought to find prices on four guitars through Cooke.
“I was hoping my church would help me pay for them,” said Chisum. “He [manager of the Guitar House] then did something better.”
Cooke responded back and told Chisum he would donate six new guitars to soldiers who want to learn how to play. However, Cooke donated eight guitars. Cooke decided to add two smaller guitars for soldiers who have trouble stretching their fingers.
“I did get a guitar when I got here but I can’t stretch my fingers that far,” said Sgt. Lori Smith of Norman, Okla., a network operator for Company C, 45th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 45th IBCT. “I’m thankful we are getting smaller guitars.”
Chisum’s wife, Julie, facilitated the shipping through her church. Pastor Lee Morgan of A Glorious Church in Collinsville, Okla., provided funds for shipping the guitars to Afghanistan.
When the guitars arrived they came with guitar bags, guitar picks and tuners. Chisum installed the strings, tune them up, and they were ready to play the same night.
“I started going to the classes when I got here,” said Smith. “I’ve been trying to learn how to play for years, but it wasn’t until I started these classes that I started to learn a lot more and got into playing. My office knows when its class time because I get so excited.”
Soldiers wanting to learn how to play can now learn without investing in a guitar before they know if they really want to make it a hobby.
“Its something I look forward to,” said Smith. “It keeps my motivation up, I get a little upset if I get called in during class or if something goes wrong and I can’t make it to class that day.”
During class the conference room is filled with people playing music such as Hotel California, Sweet Home Alabama, as well as many others.
Soldiers of the Oklahoma Guard aren’t the only people who attend classes. Coalition Force members and civilian contractors also attend. Everyone on the FOB is able to attend the classes.
The only request that Cooke asked is that when the 45th IBCT and other Oklahoma elements come home, the guitars stay in Afghanistan so the next group of soldiers can benefit and play as well.