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562nd Band Deploys to AFCENT

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Daniel Plaster
  • 146th Airlift Wing
"Fuego Azul" lit the summer on fire with Latin dance grooves and mainstream popular hits in Southwest Asia and Kyrgyzstan during July and August of this year. Comprised of Airmen from the Air National Guard Band of the Southwest located at the 146th Airlift Wing, the salsa dance band performed morale-boosting shows for servicemen and women, and built partnerships along the way performing for youth and public audiences.

"Fuego Azul", renamed "Vector" by AFCENT while deployed, is led by Tech. Sgt. Erick Quintanilla, a tuba specialist with the band who interrupted his band career for an active duty tour as a C-130 mechanic for the 146 Airlift Wing.

On returning to the band, he recruited a handful of his musical colleagues from Los Angeles, added in some additional band members, and now performs multiple sets of traditional Latin dance numbers as well as rock and pop favorites familiar to all audiences.

Working closely with the AFCENT Public Affairs staff and the U.S. embassy in Kyrgyzstan, the band's mission was to promote cultural relations with the citizens of this partner country. Interactive performances were arranged with several summer youth camps that provide English language instruction.

At these and other performances for audiences of all ages, the Latin and pop songs were greeted with big smiles, enthusiastic dancing, and many were able to sing along to the likes of Hard Day's Night, Sweet Home Alabama, Hotel California, and Pump It, by the Black Eyed Peas.

Performance venues for morale missions in the AFCENT region ranged from small offices to large stages; more unique audiences included a Marine Battalion awaiting transportation 'downrange', service members at a dining facility, and even a flight line checkpoint.

For those away from home on deployment, visits from "Fuego Azul" provide a welcome break in the deployment routine with an opportunity to relax and listen, sing and play along. For others, it marks a memorable milestone while passing their deployment days. One fighter pilot during a performance noted that the Latin arrangements were a fresh and welcome contrast to the common rock and hip-hop fare that is generally available.

Now returned home to Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, the band members are eager to continue their public affairs and morale missions across California and wherever they are requested.