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Band leader destined for School of Music

The artist Jean Debuffet once said, “Unless one says goodbye to what one loves, and unless one travels to completely new territories, one can expect merely a long wearing away of oneself and an eventual extinction.”

The life of the Soldier leads to many hellos and goodbyes, and the Army Materiel Command Band is preparing to say farewell to one of their leaders this month. Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Packard, senior teams leader for the band, is departing for his new position as director of operations for the Army School of Music in Norfolk, Virginia.

“It is hard to leave, but when you know things are going well, it is easier,” Packard said. “The Soldiers here will be hard to leave because they are good people, as well as good Soldiers. It has been great performing with them.”

After 16 years in the Army, Packard is no stranger to pulling up stakes but he said this assignment is one he will particularly miss.

“The biggest thing that I will miss is the interconnectivity with the community, the command and the band,” he said. “It has been unique here (compared) to any other place I have been. The placement of the band within the command is amazing. They are 100 percent supportive of what we do and that hasn’t always been that way at the other places I have been. Everyone realizes that we have a common effort and we work together to get it done. I am going to miss that a lot with AMC.”

The feeling is mutual for the band and its leadership.

“I’ve known Sgt. 1st Class Packard since 2003 and all this time he has been a true noncommissioned officer – and kept the mission, Soldiers and their families first,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jesse Pascua, commander and bandmaster of the AMC Band. “We wish him well as he moves on to the School of Music.”

It could be said that Packard, a trumpet player, is continuing the family business. The son of a professional trumpet player, Packard grew up in the hills of East Tennessee. As a young boy, one day he picked up one of his father’s trumpets and thus began a lifelong love of music and performance. His original career plans were to become a music teacher but after attending Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, Tennessee, playing won out over instructing. He was still looking for his vocation when his wife Misty, herself an Army brat, suggested becoming an Army musician.

After six months at the school that he will soon return to in a much different capacity, Packard embarked on a career that would take him around the world – one assignment to paradise, in Hawaii, and another to a war zone, in Iraq.

The role of the military band is unique for musicians, as providing more than just entertainment, often they provide solace and the uplifting of spirit. Packard said his time in Iraq was a very meaningful assignment for him in this respect.

“Other (non-military) acts go (overseas) but they only go to the places that are the safest to go,” he said. “They won’t go places where they can get shot at, but we do because we are Soldiers. We can play for the troops on the front lines and help them with their day-to-day morale. That was really awesome to be able to do that when I was deployed.”

While at Redstone, Packard still had plenty of opportunity to perform in addition to his leadership responsibilities. One particular highlight for him was being a part of the band’s brass combo, the Big Bang Brass Band, or as they are commonly known, B4. Although the Packards are excited about their next adventure, they will miss their home in Hazel Green and the peacefulness of country living. The larger metropolitan area of Norfolk will take some adjustment, although he said the close proximity to the beach would help ease the adjustment to city life.

Though they are saying farewell for now, the couple hope to eventually return to Tennessee to retire and they have purchased land in nearby Lynchburg. And Packard said he looks forward to seeing his AMC bandmates as they rotate through the School of Music for training.

“The biggest compliment that you can give me as a leader is ‘everything is going better now that you left,’” he said. “That is not an insult to me, that is a good thing. If you come to tell me things are worse then that is bad to me. That means I did not teach the next guy to step into my shoes and keep getting better. I want you to come tell me that things are great because that is the way it is supposed to be.”

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