USAFE band visits Turkey, affirms US commitment to NATO ally

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jeremy Jacobellis
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Winds Aloft, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Band woodwind quintet, participated in key leader engagements and outreach events at three locations throughout Turkey March 16-27. The visit served to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Turkey’s accession to NATO and affirm the U.S. commitment to a key NATO ally and regional security.

“The mission of the USAFE Band is to fortify international relationships and foster trust and friendship between the United States and diverse populations across two continents,” explained Lt. Col. Cristina Moore Urrutia, USAFE Band commander and conductor. “We are so excited to return to Turkey after more than seven years in celebration of this important milestone for the NATO alliance.” 

In Ankara, Winds Aloft performed at a reception hosted by U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Jeffry Flake and his wife, Cheryl, for nearly 100 NATO ambassadors, military attaches and other senior diplomats to celebrate Turkey’s anniversary and foster connections between senior NATO leaders. 

“Cheryl and I were delighted to host Winds Aloft at our reception,” Flake explained. “The ensemble’s performance here serves as a powerful symbol of the U.S. dedication to NATO solidarity and security in the Black Sea region.”  

The quintet also conducted two outreach events with local schools. The first consisted of several performances and a master class with over 150 international students from Ankara Elementary/High School, the only Department of Defense Education Activity School in Turkey. 

“One of the most enjoyable aspects of our job is the outreach,” mentioned Tech. Sgt. Sara Garing, Winds Aloft bassoonist. “With events like these, we’re putting a human face on the U.S. military, and we’re helping to engage with local communities here throughout Turkey.”

Winds Aloft also held nine master class sessions with more than 30 Turkish students from several different musical ensembles at Hacettepe University State Conservatory.  

“During our time at Hacettepe University, it was so rewarding to help inspire Turkey’s next generation of musicians and foster connections with our community partners,” Moore Urrutia said.

In Izmir, the quintet performed for 425th Air Base Squadron and NATO Allied Land Command members and families in addition to several civic leaders from the city. While there, Winds Aloft also offered several small-group master class sessions to around 30 students from Dokuz Eylül University State Conservatory.  

“We’re here to support key leader engagements and to help celebrate and promote the importance of the NATO alliance to Turkish military and civic leaders,” said Tech. Sgt. Justin Lucas, Winds Aloft noncommissioned officer in charge.

The musical group concluded their tour of Turkey in Adana and Incirlik Air Base with several on-base and community engagements. At Incirlik Air Base, the 39th Air Base Wing hosted Winds Aloft for an evening performance for 30 NATO allied commanders and senior enlisted leaders representing five countries.  

“Winds Aloft provided the ideal occasion for the 39th Air Base Wing to thank our Turkish allies for 70 years of working shoulder to shoulder together and for allied commanders across Incirlik to come together in celebration of NATO,” said Col. Jason Gingrich, 39th Air Base Wing commander. “Events like this help further our mutual understanding and bolster our interoperability.”

The quintet participated in the opening reception of the 10th annual Adana Orange Blossom Carnival during which members performed for approximately 200 Adana civic and business leaders in addition to senior diplomats from several countries.

“We are so happy that Winds Aloft was able to perform at what has become one of the most popular festivals in Turkey,” said Consul Amanda Pilz, U.S. Consulate Adana’s principal officer.  “Adana’s Orange Blossom Carnival is the signature celebration of a city that has generously hosted U.S. service members and diplomats for decades.  We were proud to be represented on the festival stage, with our Turkish friends in the audience.”

The final performance in Turkey comprised English-language presentations about American musical styles and accompanying performances for nearly 300 English-language students at the Turkish American Association in Adana.  

“I really enjoyed seeing how excited and inspired the kids were by our performances,” described Senior Airman Louis Kim, Winds Aloft clarinetist. “These shared moments of cultural appreciation and understanding are truly priceless.”