Oct. 21, 2009

29th Army Band changes commander

By Capt. Matt Nowak
Virginia Army Guard Public Affairs

ROANOKE, Va. — For the first time in eight years, the 29th Army Band changed  commanders in an emotional ceremony held Oct. 18 at the Roanoke Armory.

  29th Band change of command

1st Sgt. Fred Lewis (left) gives the colors of the 29th Army Band to Col. Steven Scott (center), symbolizing his relinquishment of command of the 29th Army Band. The 29th Army Band conducted a change of command ceremony between the outgoing commander, 1st Sgt. Fred Lewis, and the incoming commander, Warrant Officer Donald Carlson, Oct.18 at the Roanoke Armory. (Photo by Capt. Matt Nowak, Virginia Army Guard Public Affairs) 

In front of a packed drill floor that included the company formation surrounded by families and friends, 1st Sgt. Fred Lewis passed the guidon to Warrant Officer Donald Carlson.

After the traditional change of command ceremony, Col. Steven Scott, commander of the 91st Troop Command, praised Lewis in a speech and then presented him with a Meritorious Service Medal for his work and dedication as commander.

"I can't tell you how proud I am of you," Lewis said, in a brief but emotional speech.

“It is very unique to have a first sergeant serve as the true commander of an Army unit. Let alone have a first sergeant give up their command to then become the first sergeant of the same unit,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Carl Holcomb, the Virginia Army National Guard command sergeant major, who was in attendance. “This is a tribute to the knowledge and experience to a strong noncommissioned officer like 1st Sgt. Lewis.”

Lewis began his career as an enlisted musician in 1975, assigned to the 392nd Army Band at Fort Lee, Va. In 1978, upon completion of three years of active service, he joined the 90th Army Band, Virginia National Guard, and remained with there until 1985.

After a short break in service, he re-enlisted into the newly transformed 29th Infantry Division Band to become the acting commander, where he served for approximately 21 months. In August 2002 Lewis assumed full time command of the 29th Infantry Division Band for a second time and was later promoted to first sergeant March 2003.

Since 1984, the band has only had one warrant officer as its commander. Carlson is now the second.

“I am extremely excited to be the leader and band director of the unit,” explained Carlson. "I can't wait to get started."

Carlson is a recent graduate of the Virginia Guard’s Warrant Officer Candidate School. He served on active duty from 2003 to 2006 and was with the 392d Army Band at Fort Lee. He joined the Virginia National Guard in 2006 and has served with the 29th Army Band since then.

  29th Band change of command

Warrant Officer Donald Carlson, the new commander of the 29th Army Band, speaks to Soldiers, families and friends during a quick speech as part of a change of command ceremony Oct. 18 in Roanoke. Carlson stated he was extremely excited to be the leader and band director of the unit. 1st Sgt. Fred Lewis had been commander of the unit for the past eight years. (Photo by Capt. Matt Nowak, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) 

Carlson holds a bachelor’s degree in Music Education from West Chester University. He was a full time high school band director in New Jersey for nine years before joining the Army.

He will attend at the U.S. Army School of Music at the Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek in Norfolk in order to become Army qualified as a warrant officer.

In addition to the change of command ceremony, the unit also had ceremonies for some awards, a promotion and a couple re-enlistments.

Along with Lewis, Sgt. 1st Class Richard Carr, Staff Sgt. John Reynolds, and Staff Sgt. Troy Sisson received Meritorious Service Medals. Steven Landers was promoted from sergeant to staff sergeant. In addition, Staff Sgt. Sgt. Jason Cain re-enlisted for an additional two years and Sgt. Ahisa Spencer re-enlisted for an additional year.

The 29th Army Band was established in 1922 in Roanoke as part of the Virginia National Guard’s 116th Infantry Brigade’s Service Company.

In October 1943 it was inducted into federal service as part of the 29th Division, “Blue and Gray.” As part of D-Day, band members joined in the assault on Omaha Beach, for which they received the French Croix de Guerre with Palm. They saw action in four European campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, the Rhineland, and Central Europe.

In 1946, the 29th Division Band was inactivated. Its Virginia segment became the 90th Army Band, the “Governor’s Own.” It held that title until October 1985 when the Army reorganized and reactivated the 29th Light Infantry Division, making it the only band in a Light Infantry Division in the National Guard.

The band deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of Stabilization Force 10 in 2002. It also participated in the 60th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France in 2004.

In October 2005, the 29th Infantry Division Band was renamed the 29th Army Band and fell under the 91st Troop Command of the Virginia National Guard. This move was part of the Army-wide transformation.

During the 2009 training year, the 29th Army Band supported 48 missions for live audiences with an audience count well over 300,000 and two national television audiences for NASCAR races at the Martinsville and Richmond speedways. The unit also performed 62 bugler missions in support of memorial services and funerals. The 29th Army Band also performs in an annual holiday tour for military families.

Present-day missions take band members across Virginia and the region. They perform in concert, marching band, and small ensembles for military and civilian functions alike, with a repertoire that meets the needs of all of its audiences.

Click HERE to return to the top of the page ~ Click HERE to return to the news directory