Master Staff Sgt. Gail Tucker’s office is scattered with trophies and books stacked in haphazard piles where shelves used to be, as she prepares to shut down operations of the longest serving military unit in continuous active duty in Alaska, the Band of the Pacific.
Pointing to a white board with the names of her band members and their departure date, she had already erased the names of three members who have left.
Her name is the last on the list. “It’s going to be very quiet,” she said.
What is lost in the band’s deactivation is a mission to engage Alaska’s diverse community, educating kids and an experience for band members that Tucker, a clarinetist, called “phenomenal.”
“It’s a shame to see this mission go away [in Alaska]. It’s unlike anywhere else that I’ve ever been, and I’ve been all around,” she said.
The Band of the Pacific -- Alaska’s only Air Force band -- first formed in 1941 and officially designated in 1943, has been deactivated due to budget cuts and their members reassigned across the U.S. The Band of the Pacific is a unit existing in three parts in Alaska, Japan and Hawaii. Tucker’s unit reorganized a year ago, and they sent their entire jazz band -- 14 of the band's thirty members -- to be stationed in Japan, where she said there is a great appreciation of jazz music. Left behind was their rock band named Top Cover and Alaska Brass, their brass quintet. Now, they've all been reassigned. Alaska Brass played their last show on June 1.
Although not related to the federal spending cuts known as the sequester, military budget cuts in the past several years prompted the Chief of Staff of the Air Force to reexamine where dollars were flowing, and cutting band positions was a part of that process.