For at least 125 years, give or take a year, there’s been a military band posted to Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista.
But on Oct. 15, 2018, the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Corps Band (62nd Army Band) — the only active-duty military band in Arizona — will deactivate and its remaining members will be reassigned to other Army bands across the country, according to Fort Huachuca officials.
The move is part of a broader overhaul effort by the Army that goes back to the Obama administration. In summer 2015, the Army announced it would eliminate 40,000 troops from its ranks, which at the time numbered 490,000, according to published reports. The drawdown was expected to be completed this year and would bring the Army — the largest branch of the U.S. military — to its smallest force since World War II, the New York Times reported at the time.
Commander Michael J. Moore, the chief warrant officer who leads the Fort Huachuca band, said the 62nd Army Band was originally scheduled to be inactivated last year, but “because of some other research, they decided to push it off another year.”
As part of its deactivation, the 62nd Army Band is no longer accepting band recruits, Moore said. Its ranks have shrunk from 37 authorized members to 26 or 27 actual members, he said. Some of the vacancies are due to retirements or reassignments that were never filled.
The 62nd Army Band, which came to Arizona from Fort Bliss, Texas, in 2011, regularly performs at ceremonial events on base and community events, including the annual Sierra Vista Fourth of July and Memorial Day parades. The ensemble’s smaller groups, including a jazz band and rock band, also put on community concerts, Moore said.
“As the only active-duty military band in Arizona, the U.S. Military Intelligence Corps Band at Fort Huachuca fostered morale and connected the community to the troops as it played at Fourth of July events, parades, summer concerts in the park and ceremonial military events, along with other community engagements,” U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, whose Congressional District 2 includes Sierra Vista, said in a written statement released through her spokeswoman, Kelly Schibi. “It has been a cultural staple in our community and will be remembered fondly and missed greatly.”
Glenn Hohman, who served at Fort Huachuca from 2008 to 2011, said not having the band will be a loss. But it is something that he and his fellow veterans at Sierra Vista’s VFW Post 9972 were anticipating.
Hohman, who retired from the Army in 2013 after nearly 21 years and now commands the VFW post, said his 2,100 members first learned of the move more than a year ago.
“It’s been a little bit of frustration, but on the other hand, I think people want to be fiscally responsible at the same time,” said Hohman, who works on the base as a civilian. “There’s a balance and it’s a tough loss, but I don’t think anyone’s surprised by it.”
Sierra Vista Mayor Rick Mueller said his city is used to changes at the base, which is the city’s primary economic driver. Fort Huachuca’s economic impact on the area tops $1.3 billion annually, he noted.
Mueller said the Army has been talking about downsizing since he served as a field artillery officer in the late 1990s. Thirty days before he retired in 1995 or 1996, he said, he was transferred to Fort Knox, Kentucky, after his base, Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana, was shuttered.
“Even back then they were looking at downsizing,” he said. “When you hear reports that the armed forces are at the lowest level since World War I, that should tell you that everyone is being downsized, not just the bands.”
But the bands have been hit especially hard, Moore acknowledged. When he enlisted in the Army as a trombone player in 1998, there were about 35 Army bands. Today there are 17.
In the past four years, seven military bands have been deactivated and the Army has found itself at times posting two band commanders to one unit, he said.
Moore, who arrived at Fort Huachuca in May, said Army band soldiers have served dual purposes throughout history, including being deployed with fighting troops.
Fort Huachuca’s band does not deploy, he said, but those that do have historically been part of the medical teams that removed the dead from the field, he said.
“In modern times we’ve been part of the security detail,” he explained, adding that the bands’ primary role is to “boost morale for the soldiers” serving in hot spots.
“Typically we will be stationed at a specific outpost and we will travel out to the forward bases ... to provide concerts for the troops,” Moore said.
Fort Huachuca media relations officer Tanja M. Linton said the post has had a permanent band since the late 1800s. In 1890, it was commanded by Achille La Guardia, father of New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia who wrote of his Arizona experiences in his 1948 book, “The Making of an Insurgent: An Autobiography, 1882-1919.”
In addition to performing at Sierra Vista events, the 62nd Army Band performed recently at a jazz festival in Nogales, Arizona, and earlier this year at an Arizona Cardinals game in Glendale.
“As an Army community, we are very blessed to have a military band ... because they provide community concerts throughout the year and they are very well-attended,” Mayor Mueller said. “It’s a shame that the Army is not going to be able to provide that service to our community.”
Commander Moore said Fort Huachuca will call on Army Reserve bands to fill in for post ceremonies, but Hohman said it won’t be the same.
“I think a great thing about the band was it added something intangible that you couldn’t get from anywhere else,” Hohman said. “People who spent a lot of time in the military were used to the pomp and the circumstance, and having that in ceremonies that aren’t necessarily affiliated with the military brought their service back to the forefront of their minds.”