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Song 'Bird' lifts spirits, keeps deployed mission humming

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Angelique Smythe
  • 451st AEW Public Affairs
On the morning of Sept. 24, members of the 451st Expeditionary Maintenance Group began their morning listening to tunes of a fiddler from the 772nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. 

Staff Sgt. Galen Bird, deployed from the 19th Maintenance Squadron here, was a few hours away from the end of his shift when his captain grabbed him without notice for a wing stand up meeting. 

The musician, who'd been known to play around his squadron, said, "I grabbed my gun, grabbed my shirt, got my fiddle and left. I had three minutes to prepare what I was about to play." 

He played songs such as the "Arkansas Traveler," "The Old Copperplate," "The Irish Washerwoman" and others. 

Sergeant Bird, who said his grandfather introduced him to the very bare bones of the violin at the young age of seven or eight, has been playing the instrument for 18 years. 

"That's the one thing I wanted to play when I was a kid, and I grew up around a lot of music," he said. "I was a band geek; I played in an orchestra all the way through high school. When I became a teenager, I began playing in an Irish pub every week until I later joined the Air Force, and I basically bring my violin with me wherever I go." 

Sergeant Bird practices new tunes several hours a week. He mostly plays Irish, old-time, country and bluegrass music. 

"It's relaxing and I enjoy playing and learning new songs," he said. "I like tunes that are heart pumping and get your adrenaline going. Once you get a really good ensemble playing and people dancing...just to be part of the merry-making process is satisfying." 

A crew chief by trade, but currently a noncommissioned officer in charge of consolidated tool kits for C-130J Hercules aircraft, Sergeant Bird is in charge of all tools and things such as hazardous materials, land mobile radio accounts and equipment management accounts. 

He works night shifts on the flightline and practices just before turnovers are scheduled to occur. 

Sergeant Galen's primary instrument is his fiddle, but he said he also picks around on the mandolin and knows a few guitar chords. 

Olympia, Wash., is the fiddler's hometown, and Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., is his current home station.