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New BMT campus prompts Drum & Bugle Corps move

By James Coburn | 37th Training Wing Public Affairs Office | April 25, 2008

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — Basic military training's Drum & Bugle Corps has moved into larger rehearsal facilities to make room for the first Airmen Training Complex of a planned new BMT campus.

Trainees who form the 737th Training Group Drum & Bugle Corps have been practicing for more than three decades in a former World War II-era, two-story barracks located south of the 323rd Training Squadron.

That old building will be demolished early next year as it is on the footprint of the new Airmen Training Complex now being designed to accommodate 1,200 trainees.

The Drum & Bugle Corps, which plays for BMT graduations each Friday and BMT Retreat on Thursday evenings, moved April 8 into Bldg. 9028 on Carswell Avenue at Truemper Street. This is also the only band in the Air Force with a six-week turnover. Lt. Col. Shawn O'Day, 323rd Training Squadron commander, said, "We create a miracle every 6 weeks."

"This move is one of many to support the expansion of BMT," said Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Ludwig, 737th TRG superintendent. "The lengthening of BMT to 8.5 weeks, which begins in November 2008, is being done to respond to Air Force requirements to have more lethal and adaptable Airmen with basic warfighting skills and the confidence to use those skills to defeat any current or future adversary.

Remember: 'BMT! ... In the lead!'"

"This is a much better facility," said Band Director Sam Johnson, a leader of the Drum & Bugle Corps for the past 14 years. "It's larger, so we can rehearse in a more professional manner. And trainees are definitely highly motivated when they come in here."

Bldg. 9028 has a 4,000-square-foot rehearsal room - about twice the space of the largest room in the old building. Bldg. 9028, a former recruit dormitory, also has a good-sized dayroom that Mr. Johnson and Tech. Sgt. Ronald Gann use to rehearse the corps' brass section.

Tech. Sgt. Steve Larson, the corps' third band leader, rehearses the drummers and cymbalists in the larger room, which also is used for full corps rehearsals.

Sergeant Larson said the new building is "so much better. The drums can all be in one room and stay there the whole time. We used to have to bring them downstairs (for full corps rehearsals) and meet in a room that was probably half the size.

"It was so crowded in there - and loud," he said of the old building the corps moved into in 1976, a year after he was born.

The Drum & Bugle Corps also performs for various events in San Antonio and surrounding communities. It performed in several Fiesta parades downtown and on Lackland last week. Its next performance is for a bluebonnet festival May 3 in Kenedy.