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CAMP SABALU-HARRISON, Afghanistan – “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
Throughout his 10 years in the Navy, Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Braun said, he has found motivation in those words, spoken by President Theodore Roosevelt.
For many of those years, he explained, Braun has traveled around the world and made the best of all circumstances for himself and his shipmates.
Braun is a singer, and he decided early in his career that he would use his talent to boost the spirits of his fellow sailors. Wherever he was, he said, he would do his best to put together a command band.
This endeavor proved logistically challenging at some far-flung destinations, he said. But instead of letting roadblocks stop him, he added, he followed Roosevelt’s advice and did what he could.“Having musical instruments, speakers and microphones shipped and finding locations to practice have always been challenges, but there’s nothing that can’t be overcome with a little creativity,” Braun said.
One challenge that never arose, Braun said, was finding band members.
“Wherever I’m stationed, there is so much hidden talent that it is never a problem finding band members,” he said. “Everyone loves music. That is what I want to bring to everyone, that feeling music brings: home.”
Bringing “home” to his shipmates has meant singing in dining halls, USOs, fire barns and even on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic. Now, it means singing in Afghanistan.
Recently, Braun left Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba and deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Upon arrival, he said, he knew he wanted to continue his tradition of starting a command band. In a combat zone, morale and welfare always are on leaders’ minds, Braun noted, so when he presented the idea to Navy Cmdr. Stanfield Chien, commander of Task Group Trident, Chien was enthusiastic about the idea.
“Our deployed sailors sacrifice so much that the idea of a band to boost spirits was a fantastic initiative,” Chien said.
With Chien’s blessing and Braun’s enthusiastic efforts, the idea came to fruition in a band called Controlled Det.
Forming a band in a combat zone is not easy. Task Group Trident is a mix of sailors from across the United States and is not a single deployed unit. With such a variety of personalities and backgrounds, the talent pool was deep, but a little cloudy, Braun said. However, through his guidance and the other five members’ raw talent, they put together a band that "tours" all over Bagram Airfield.
Controlled Det is the fifth command band Braun has organized. The band has seven performances under its belt so far. Most recently, they played for the Army National Guard’s birthday celebration and the Army National Guard advisor for U.S. Forces Afghanistan, Army Col. Larry Howl, said they were a hit.
“Controlled Det was phenomenal. They rocked,” Howl said. “Lead singer Michael Braun’s poise, charisma and humor on stage connected well with their new fans. Their unique style and energy, coupled with their musical talent, captivated all of us. I salute Controlled Det’s commitment to entertain. They were the highlight of the National Guard’s 376th birthday celebration.”
The amount of good that Controlled Det has done for deployed service members is immeasurable, Chien said. “The National Guard birthday is yet another example of Controlled Det providing service members with a sense of normalcy in a war zone, which is hard to accomplish.”
Braun, whose time in Afghanistan is drawing to an end, said the first thing he will do at his next duty station is to start asking around for talented musicians so he can once again do what he can with what he has.