Saluting An Airman Of Song
Retiring U.S. Air Force Col. Larry H. Lang, Conductor of the United States Air Force Band, Honored At Alliance Holiday Luncheon
Story and Photography By Raoul Dennis // Prince George’s Suite Magazine & Media
“Music binds us and bridges all divides,” said Col. Larry H. Lang, commander at Bolling AFB and Conductor of the United States Air Force Band on Dec. 17. Although he spent a career trained - and prepared – to bring an end to America’s enemies from the air, he is the first to say that the power of music had also been a part of his mission.
The Andrews Business & Community Alliance celebrated Lang as the guest of honor for the impeccable career he led and for his work extending the diplomatic voice of United States military power. The luncheon was held at Mama Stella’s Restaurant in Clinton, Md. and was attended by over 100 military, business, community and elected leaders of Prince George’s and across the region.
He explained how he met with his dual role. “The USAF is in the business of power projection to defend the homeland and to defend our interests abroad. There are times when it looks like that’s what we practice a lot: things like arms and airplanes and our strength of force. But there’s another piece of this – the soft power projection – that our military also invests heavily in. [So], you see the United States Air Force Band and its components around the metropolitan area at events and occasions but they also get invited by our friends and allies to project that soft power of the United States around the world. That to me is part of the mission,” Lang said.
“They are our ambassadors around the world,” says M.H. Jim Estepp, president and CEO of the Andrews Business & Community Alliance. “That’s why it’s important to recognize the commander in this vain.”
U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Greg Pinney, a member of the quartet that performed at the luncheon, spoke modestly about his commander and conductor.
“He has been our commander for seven years,” Pinney said. “He has been fantastic.” The quartet, a direct part of the world-renowned U.S. Air Force Band, performed some 20 pieces at the luncheon – primarily holiday and patriotic selections. The quartet consisted of two violins, a cellist and a violist. Pinney noted that there were several other events that the group would perform within before the day was over.
The Alliance honored Col. Lang with a Career of Excellence and Service award for his leadership.
The band stays very busy. At occasions from the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to state dinners to July 4 celebrations and funeral occasions, the band is a key part of the military’s national diplomatic presence.
Stationed at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C., it is one of six musical ensembles that comprise The U.S. Air Force Band. Created in 1950 to continue the tradition of Major Glenn Miller's Army Air Corps dance band, the current band consists of 21 active duty Airmen musicians including one vocalist.
In other developments at the event, the Alliance honored Col. Andrew M. Purath and LS1 Brian Ly for their service and volunteerism. Command Chief Master Sergeant Kimberly Turner was given an honorable send off as she retires after 30 years of service to the USAF. The organization also congratulated Col. Rebecca Sonkiss of the 89th Airlift Wing who has been nominated to become a Brigadier General in the months ahead. Incoming County Council Chair Todd Turner attended and gave remarks related to strengthening the county council’s already strong relationship with the Alliance and the Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable.
The luncheon included lasagna, chicken in a red sauce and a fresh salad supported by Mama Stella’s own incredible dressing.