‘Triple Nickel’ to perform for troops in war zones


Sometimes in war the soldier behind a musical instrument is as important as the soldier behind a gun.
Anxious to bring entertainment to war-weary U.S. troops in Southwest Asia, Grand Rapids native Dave
Rochte has volunteered for a 30- to 45-day deployment with nine other members of the Air National Band
of the Great Lakes.
The band, known as "Triple Nickel," is comprised of members of the 180th Fighter Wing of the
Ohio Air National Guard in Toledo. They are traditional Air Guardsmen who take a leave of absence from
their civilian jobs in order to do their deployments.
"The entire band is 38 pieces. It’s a lot easier to deploy 10 instead of 38," explained Rochte,
who grew up in Grand Rapids and still considers it his hometown. He is currently living outside Columbus
and makes the commute to Toledo for duty weekends.
"It’s definitely an honor to go. I volunteered right away," he said. "This is our first
active deployment in a war-type zone in the history of the band." He has done two previous tours of
duty with the band, Hungary, when it was coming into NATO, and Panama.
"What they wanted over there is popular music," he said. Rochte is the only band member who
plays bass guitar as his primary instrument, "so it was easy to see who would go."SClBThe
scaled-down ensemble has taken the name "Mohave" for its mission to entertain the troops in
the Middle East. Rochte said they do not know exactly where they will be performing; only that they will
arrive at an air base in the Middle East and their "gigs" are currently being booked. He said
Afghanistan and Iraq are possible concert sites.
"Imagine Bob Hope over there entertaining the troops. We’ll take them out of their environment and
entertain them; get them to relax. The stresses put on soldiers is tremendous. Our mission is to help
release as much of that as possible."
He recalled one soldier who made a point of coming up to the band after a concert and thanking them for
performing. "That’s why I’m proud to be going over there. There’s no question about the need to go
over there and do this."
Rochte is currently unemployed, so the timing of this deployment is fortunate. "This is an
opportunity to be able to do extra training. It does take a lot of time away from your civilian life.
The training we receive is top notch."
Still, he will be away from his wife, Laura, and his son, Dylan, 13, for four to six weeks.
Rochte is in his 18th year with the Air National Guard, enlisting straight out of Otsego High School. He
said the band plays at various high schools for public relations, and one band member asked him as a
teen what he thought of joining the Guard. "So I did. I have gone places and seen things I would
not have had the opportunity to do."
There are 11 Air Force active duty bands and 11 Air National Guard bands. "We are one of the
best-kept secrets," Rochte said, explaining that Air Force bands have been deployed to entertain
troops in Southwest Asia for three years which takes a lot of manpower. Sending Air National Guards
helps to relieve the active duty bands. "It’s us helping the rest of the Air Force bands do the
mission. The Guard band is going to take a much more active role."
He added, "Other bands will follow us. It’s an ongoing mission."
Rochte’s parents are Deb and Dan Rochte of Grand Rapids.

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