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Face of Defense: Guard Band Entertains at White House

By Bill Phelan
Missouri National Guard

WASHINGTON, April 19, 2012 – Sidewinder, the rock band element of the St. Louis-based 571st Missouri Air National Guard Band made famous by a YouTube video, performed at the White House April 11.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Members of "Sidewinder," the Missouri Air National Guard's 571st Air Force Band, play before the event to mark the first anniversary of "Joining Forces," a national campaign to support military families, at the White House, April 11, 2012. DOD photo by Linda Hosek

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The 10-member ensemble was invited to perform as First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joseph Biden, marked the one-year anniversary of the Joining Forces initiative, a military family support program.

"We are thrilled," said Air Force Maj. John Arata, Sidewinder band leader and commanding officer of the 571st. "This is a unique opportunity for us to represent the Air National Guard on a national stage and share what military bands do to support troop morale and build international relationships."

Band members learned the week before that they would be making the trip to Washington after the first lady and Biden saw videos of the group’s performances.

"The first lady's Joining Forces initiative builds troop support in the American public, particularly through the use of social and shared media," Arata said. "Our YouTube video is a perfect example of how modern, shared media can build troop support."

That video of Sidewinder performing the Adele hit "Rolling in the Deep" while deployed to the Middle East last summer went viral and was watched more than 2 million times. Its popularity led to the band appearing on various national television programs. Band vocalist Air Force Staff Sgt. Angie Johnson also appeared on the hit NBC show "The Voice."

But all of that pales in comparison to playing at the White House, the band commander said.

"Performing at the White House is the opportunity of a lifetime, especially for a regional band," he said. "We're very motivated to present a high quality, professional product, and we look forward to thanking the first lady and Mrs. Biden for the opportunity to be a part of this significant event."

Sidewinder performed three songs at the White House, including "Rolling in the Deep."

In addition to Arata and Johnson, Sidewinder band members include Air Force Staff Sgt. Sean Navarro, Staff Sgt. Ransom Miller, Staff Sgt. Devin LaRue, Staff Sgt. Brian Owens, Tech. Sgt. John Cavanaugh, Staff Sgt. Toby Callaway, Tech. Sgt. Kevin Maret and Tech. Sgt. Joey Castilleja.

The 571st Air National Guard Band is a subordinate unit of the 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.

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