Mcchord Band To Be Disbanded In Budget Cuts

McCHORD AIR FORCE BASE - The Air Force Band of the Pacific Northwest, whose musical roots reach back to World War II and legendary orchestra leader Glenn Miller, may tune up for the last time this summer.

The military has decided to deactivate the 45-member band at McChord Air Force Base as part of ongoing budget cuts, a McChord spokeswoman said.

Air Force officials earlier decided to reduce the service's number of bands from 20 to 13, said Staff Sgt. Sandra Whipps. It was recently determined which base bands would go.

``I'll personally be sorry to see it go - that's really all I can say,'' band leader Capt. Mark Peterson said. ``It's going to be tough to break up the organization.''

The full band and its several ensembles perform about 500 performances a year at military ceremonies and civilian concerts throughout the Northwest and elsewhere. Band members also play at high schools to help with Air Force recruiting activities.

The McChord band's final concert will probably be at the Fourth of July ceremony on the Tacoma waterfront, Peterson said.

Surviving bands, including those from Travis Air Force Base near San Francisco or Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, may perform at official McChord functions and civilian concerts after the Northwest unit disbands. The Army and Navy also will have bands in the area.

``We're not going to be totally bandless, we just won't have one here at McChord,'' Whipps said.

Members of deactivated bands may choose to retire or train in another speciality, Peterson said. Some may transfer to bands at other bases.

Officially known as the 724th Air Force Band, McChord's music unit traces its origin to an Army band formed in Atlantic City, N.J., in 1943 under then-Army Capt. Glenn Miller.

That band split into several smaller units which performed for troops during World War II. After the war, the eventual McChord band switched to the Air Force when that military service separated from the Army in 1947. The band's musicians were originally stationed in California and transferred to McChord in 1963.

Civilian music lovers hope the Pentagon will change its mind and reinstate the 724th. Seattle retirees and devoted fans Myrtle and Clee Huffman have traveled around Washington state for the last seven years to see the band perform.

``I think it's just devastating that they would even consider cutting out the band,'' Myrtle Huffman said. ``At a time like this, when there is so much turmoil in people's lives with the war going on, we need this.''