Regular readers are already aware that the single largest US employer of full-time professional musicians is the United States Armed Forces. In addition to their critical role inside the US Armed Forces, their contributions to the cultural and artistic fabric of communities they are stationed are practically too large to measure. But that doesn’t seem to stop legislators from looking at their meager budgets as fertile ground for cuts or to denigrate their value as artists and soldiers.
The latest public display of open hostility toward military musicians from a member of congress is Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ), who was quoted in an article by Oriana Pawlyk in the 3/22/2016 edition of AirForceTimes.com advocating for gutting the entire United States Air Force band program because it doesn’t contribute enough to national security. Titled Congresswoman to Air Force: Put down the tuba, pick up a gun, the article reports Rep. McSally’s disdain for military musicians.
“If we really had a manning crisis, from my perspective, we would really tell people to put down the tuba and pick up a wrench or a gun,” McSally said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
There’s an articulate and thoughtful reply to Rep. McSally’s position from Eric W. Benken, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force (the highest noncommissioned officer position in the United States Air Force) from 1996 to 1999. His reply came via Facebook so you may not be able to access the post; as such, a screencap is provided here.
Unfortunately, the sort of behavior displayed by Rep. McSally is not unique nor restricted to political party affiliation. We examined an attempt from 2011 to gut military band funding via legislation proposed by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN).
For now, you can respond to Rep. McSally’s remarks directly via her Facebook page where she posted the AirForceTimes.com article. to date, the vast majority of comments have been sharply critical of her remarks.
I also recommend setting aside some time today to learn more about the US Armed Forces ensembles and their missions.