Scots Guards Pipes and Drums Perform at Pentagon
By Air Force Master Sgt. Russell P. Petcoff
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 25, 2009 The British army’s 1st Battalion Scots Guards Pipes and Drums played in the Pentagon courtyard during lunchtime today in a show of solidarity with U.S. armed forces.
The British army’s 1st Battalion Scots Guards Pipes and Drums Band performs for employees, servicemembers and families at the Pentagon, Sept. 25, 2009. The band, which consists of infantry soldiers who will soon prepare to deploy to Afghanistan, performed to express admiration for its closest allies. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Stan Parker
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The unit’s performance is “an expression of admiration and appreciation of our alliance,” said British army Lt. Col. William Swinton, a liaison officer to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In a display of camaraderie, the unit played “Scotland the Brave” -- a traditional Scottish anthem -- immediately followed by “God Bless America.”
“We came to [the District of Columbia] for a specific reason,” Swinton said, “to demonstrate the admiration the British military has for the U.S. military.”
The band will go to Walter Reed Army Medical Center tomorrow to play in salute and appreciation to America’s wounded servicemembers, he said.
The unit is the oldest infantry battalion in the British army, Swinton said. Each member of the 20-piece band -- eight pipers, seven drummers, four sword dancers and one drum major -- is a soldier and not a permanent musician. They return Sept. 28 to their base at Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire, England, to begin training for a 2010 deployment to Afghanistan.
“These are front-line soldiers who will be fighting with U.S. Marines in Helmand [province],” Swinton said.
The unit's 20-minute performance brought out many people from the Pentagon. One spectator had advance notice of the performance and wore his Gordon clan tartan kilt.
“I’m in a pipe band, so I’m loving it,” said William Germelman, a contractor with the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs Yellow Ribbon program and the drum major for the City of Winchester (Va.) Pipes and Drums band. “This is just phenomenal.”
The British unit has been in the United States for about a month. Their performances have taken place aboard the USS Intrepid in New York Harbor; a Scottish-Irish festival in Estes Park, Colo.; and a Scottish Highlands festival in San Francisco.
The group enjoyed playing throughout America, but playing in the Pentagon was special, said British army Sgt. Martin Godsman, drum major.
“It’s an absolute privilege and honor,” he said. “To come to the heart of this place is just fantastic.”
“It’s a great honor to play in the Pentagon,” added British army Lance Cpl. Robert McCutcheon, battalion drummer. It’s “something I thought I’d never do.” The band also played at the Lincoln Memorial yesterday.
Besides the Pentagon, the unit has the unique distinction of having played in the Kremlin, Swinton said.
The unit's visit has been well received, said British army Sgt. Brian Heriot, the pipe major. “The American crowd seems to love the bagpipes,” he said. “Everyone seems to have a Scottish ancestor.”
The 21 members marched in formation as they played, dressed in ornate Scottish military uniforms. Four of the band members performed a traditional Scottish sword dance, similar to American square dancing, but around four swords placed on the ground.
“It takes a brave man to go out to the front lines and fight,” said Alan Bow, a civilian contractor. Bow and his family regularly attend Scottish heritage events and visit Scotland. “But it takes a special kind of bravery to wear a kilt and be a performing dancer as well.”
(Air Force Master Sgt. Russell P. Petcoff serves in Secretary of the Air Force public affairs. Ian Graham, a writer for Defense Media Activity's Emerging Media Directorate contributed to this report. )