LAS VEGAS INTERNATIONAL MILITARY TATTOO

Nevada isn’t a place that usually springs to mind when one thinks of massed bands, pipes, drums and displays of precision military drill manoeuvres, but that was exactly what the excited masses in a 10,000 capacity arena in Las Vegas experienced over the weekend of 15/16 April 2011.

The inaugural Las Vegas International Military Tattoo saw bands and performers from the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States come together for a spectacular of music and entertainment of the like never to grace Las Vegas before. The theme for the event was ‘A tribute to the Forces of the United States and her Allies’. As the only RAF Squadron permanently based in the United States the tri-service personnel of 39 Squadron were quick to offer their assistance in a variety of roles for this high profile event.Reflecting on 39 Squadron’s remarkable contribution to the event OC 39 Squadron, Wg Cdr Ball, stated

“The Unit recently surpassed 20 000 hours of operational flying in support of the International Security Assistance Force; clearly, the men and women of 39 Squadron find themselves heavily committed to the delivery of a second-to-none Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance capability in a challenging and dynamic theatre of operations. Spare time is therefore precious, so it speaks volumes that 20 personnel volunteered to offer assistance during their valuable ‘down-time’ in order to support the International Military Tattoo.”

With the Unit’s overall contribution organised by Flight Lieutenant Col Welsh, 39 Squadron personnel hosted VIPs and Veterans, including the Nevada Governor, Mr Brian Sandoval, at 2 pre-event receptions. Further volunteers paraded at the opening and closing ceremonies as flag-bearers, proudly flying the Union, English, Scottish and Welsh flags. They were schooled in the finer arts of drill by Flight Lieutenant ‘DJ’ Wright, himself a veteran of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. A further key group of personnel, ably led by Corporal Iain Wilton, assisted the production staff as stage-hands and backstage coordinators, bringing some of their trademark military organisational ability to a largely civilian-organised event. The final grouping came in the shape of a fundraising team, with Chief Petty Officer Andy Founds of the RN at the helm, who sold over $1200 of merchandise to benefit charities including Help for Heroes to the Las Vegas crowds who came to enjoy the spectacular show. A very special thank you was given by the organisers of the event to Sergeant Justine East, who acted as a key coordinator for the entire event and demonstrated her considerable administrative talent in organising and executing the in and out processing of over 500 members of the cast.

The symbiotic relationship of those constantly engaged on operations within the British Military hit home for those assisting backstage when some of the bandsmen from the Band of the 1st Battalion, The Scots Guards recalled the fact that on their 2010 deployment to Helmand as part of Op Herrick they had worked closely with the MQ-9 Reaper crews of 39 Squadron, going so far as to even recognise the voices of some of the crews they had worked with whilst on the ground as part of Rifle Company.

Some four years in the making, the event did not disappoint, and those on 39 Squadron look forward to assisting again next year!

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