TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
The U.S. Marine Corps has many traditions, and the band providing security in the field and on deployments is one of them. The 2nd Marine Division (2d MARDIV) Band is supporting MAGTF Warfighting Exercise (MWX) 1-20, all while demonstrating that they are riflemen first and musicians second.
For U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Nick Maglione, a percussion instrumentalist with Headquarters Battalion, 2d MARDIV, the days in garrison are considerably different than those in the field. A typical day starts with physical training, then field drill, and after that, small assemblies of different instruments practice together, but the day doesn’t stop there. After chow, the section leaders of the band talk with their respective sections, reviewing various pieces of music for upcoming performances. When section leaders release their sections, members of the band spend time practicing by themselves before wrapping up for the day. After a whole day of practicing with the band, “I usually spend an hour on my own practicing after work,” said Maglione.
Maglione found his passion for music when he was younger, participating in drum corps, garage bands, and performing “gigs” with various groups. When he wasn’t working, he made time to practice his music. Two years ago Maglione decided to make music his primary occupation.
“The reason I enlisted into the Marine Corps was because I thought if I was going to enlist, I wanted to do something that I am good at, and that I enjoy. I thought, ‘why not use my skills to serve my country in the way I know how?’” said Maglione.
The process of getting into the Marine Corps Band is long, and very difficult. The first step for Maglione was contacting the Musical Technical Assistant (MTA) for the sheet music, and to set up a date for an audition. Unfortunately for him, Maglione’s first audition was recorded in a small room not acoustically designed for music. To his delight, the MTA gave Maglione a second chance to record his music. “I found a music director at a high school, who happened to be a percussionist. He let me use his facility to practice,” Maglione said. The second audition was recorded in a hall designed for musical performance. It was after this performance that the MTA decided to meet with Maglione for a live audition; impressed with his performance, Maglione had finally earned his band contract and was well on his way to becoming a United States Marine.
Maglione is now serving his country as a U.S. Marine, and for him that means doing what his Corps needs before practicing his music. “When you’re recruited, you’re told you are a rifleman first. It’s part of our job,” Maglione said.
There are a lot of occupational fields in the Marine Corps, but music is Maglione’s. One of the biggest differences between the musical occupational field and other fields is the size of the units, said Maglione. “In the band I see the same people every day, but in other fields, who is seen can vary,” he said, adding that while there may be stereotypes associated with being a bandsman in the Marine Corps, they still hold themselves to the high standard that is expected of all Marines.
The Marine Corps Band is always on the move, and has fluctuating schedules that can be hectic at times. “The band uses its own internal administrative processes for most things,” said U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Michael Okuno, a clarinet instrumentalist with Headquarters Battalion, 2d MARDIV, “because unlike other jobs or (civilian) bands, doing so makes scheduling and transportation a little easier,” he said, admitting that it can still be kind of crazy because they never know when they’re going to have to perform.
The crazy, irregular schedules and high possibility of being called to perform may be a common lifestyle in garrison, but when the band goes to the field, they have a set rotation on who stands security watch and when.
Their set schedule consists of eight-hour shifts that rotate between members, which enables them to provide security as the band traditionally does. Of the 47 members of the 2d MARDIV Band, 26 of them are supporting MWX. “We left the brass quintets behind, just in case the Division needed us to play at a ceremony (at Camp Lejeune). We can’t give a ceremony the whole band, but at least they will have the brass,” said Maglione. A brass quintet is traditionally comprised of two trumpets, one French horn, one trombone, and one tuba.
When the band deploys, the instruments deploy with them for situations like assisting in boosting morale for Marines in the field. Accordingly, the 2d MARDIV Band brought their instruments with them to Twentynine Palms, and when the band members are not providing security, they’re practicing with their sections to keep their skill levels maintained and morale high.
Maglione has not had much field experience, as most of his days are spent in garrison working on his music; however, Maglione and other members of the band still know that they are riflemen first and musicians second. “At the end of the day you’re still a Marine. You are still that rifleman that you trained to be in boot camp, but if they need you to go to the field, you go,” said Maglione.
The 2d MARDIV Band is a part of MWX, utilizing their skills as riflemen rather than their skills as musicians. The MAGTF Warfighting Exercise, which is designed to increase warfighting readiness for major combat operations at a division scale, took place at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, in early November. Designers also constructed the exercise to improve both joint-service, and allied- and partner-nation relationships, in that it simulates a division-level force operating alongside sibling services and coalition forces. It was the largest exercise conducted by 2d MARDIV in decades.
The 2d MARDIV Band is comprised of Marines that enjoy their craft, all while upholding the high standards that come with being a Marine.