By Lisa Ferdinando
The across-the-board budget cuts are drastically impacting a very visible mission of the Army, engaging and interacting with the American people.
The Army has a wide range of community outreach activities that support recruiting goals and tell the service’s story to the nation, from showcasing aerial precision with spectacular flyovers and parachute jumps to the world-class musical performances of the United States Army Field Band.
For the most part, these activities are being put on hold, although officials said some public performances and outreach events may be approved by special exceptions, depending on circumstances.
Aerial demonstrations, including flyovers, jump team demonstrations, and participation in civilian airshows and military open houses, will cease as of April 1.
The Golden Knights, the Army Parachute Team that has been thrilling crowds for decades, will not be performing public demonstrations for the remainder of the fiscal year.
The Knights were scheduled to perform 70 shows before a projected audience of 3.5 million people across the United States, said Matt Leas, the chief of Marketing Integration with the Army Marketing and Research Group.
“While it is unclear when the demonstrations will resume, the Golden Knights will continue training to maintain required credentials and certification to ensure the team is ready for future opportunities to showcase their capabilities to the American people,” he said in a statement.
“The Golden Knights mission is to maintain the Army’s connection with the American people and they look forward to resuming that role in the future,” said Leas.
The Army Field Band, the musical ambassadors and the premier touring musical representative of the Army, was forced to cancel its spring tour that would have taken it to communities throughout the southeast United States for 139 performances in April and May.
The cancellation is a big disappointment for the Soldiers who have practiced for months and the communities that were preparing for and excited about the concerts, said Army Field Band spokesman Jonathan Agee.
He said planning for the tour began about a year in advance and involves sponsors in the local communities who have already spent money for advertising and to secure venues.
“The response has been a mix of understanding, most people are aware of the sequestration measures that are in place right now, and extreme disappointment because the communities look forward to this,” said Agee.
He said Soldiers are seeking other ways to fulfill their musical mission. The Army Field Band, based at Fort Meade, can still perform in the commuting area and is looking to increase its local outreach.
The musicians are also considering doing virtual clinics for schools, which would allow them to interact with the public without incurring any costs. Agee said they are hopeful Congress will reach a deal, allowing the band to go on its summer tour, which would begin in late June.
“We not only are out there telling the Army story to the American public, but we’re also engaging schools,” Agee said. “Most concerts we invite the top bands people in the area from the local high schools up on stage to perform a piece with us. It’s a pretty big event for a lot of people and the disappointment has been running deep.”
The Army’s Birthday, which is celebrated throughout the country each year with a series of events in June, has seen funding for the festivities slashed. Department of the Army headquarters has canceled its much-anticipated Army Birthday Ball for this year. In previous years, the ball has brought together Army leadership, Soldiers, wounded warriors, veterans and military supporters for an evening of dining, music and socializing.
Other birthday events will continue, such as cake-cutting at the Pentagon and a Twilight Tattoo ceremony the evening before. There will still be an Army run at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., and a wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery.
Other areas impacted by the sequester include military participation in events abroad and civilian monetary awards. The Army has suspended tuition assistance for Soldiers, and Army civilian employees are set to be furloughed one day a week beginning the last week of April.
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