The final performance is history for the 389th Army Materiel Command Band. The Army disbanded the musical unit. A few soldier musicians are still knocking around the band's building, but the band itself is no more. For the last Director of the band, Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Bettencourt, it's a sad time, but there is something to look forward to. "This move is exciting. It's overseas," said CW4 Bettencourt.
The Chief is moving to Mons, Belgium as the new Commander of the "Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe" band. The SHAPE band is essentially NATO's band, and it can and will have musicians from multiple NATO countries. "It's pretty exciting, because each person, each musician brings their own experience, their own talents, their own styles, and we find a way to all work together for a common goal," said Bettencourt.
Working together would sum up the Chief's career, first as a musician and then as a unit commander and director. He has been part of 8 military bands over the years and that includes the 1st Armored Division in Germany. In fact, he's served in Europe multiple times, and he believes that put him in a good position for the SHAPE job.
"You don't want to send somebody who has never been to Europe, because that's not a good place to learn. You have to at least have a little knowledge about it before you go into a position like that," said Chief Bettencourt.
He also said it helped that he is a Warrant Officer, because the Command wanted someone of his rank to take over a job that has recently been handled by enlisted personnel.
You need a little knowledge to direct a band. The Chief has a lot of knowledge, and certainly a taste of Alabama to take with him to Belgium. "they love "Sweet Home Alabama" of all things, so when I found out I was going there, I just found it so funny that I can go there and the song, the unofficial anthem of Alabama that we were able to perform so many times...we'll bring it back over there and I imagine even 10 years later, they're still going to enjoy it," said Chief Bettencourt.
That song won't be the only thing that travels with the new SHAPE Band Director and his family as they begin the next phase of their military lives in Europe. "There's part of here that reminds me of the rolling hills of Europe, and I know when I drive through certain parts there, it's going to take me back to remember being in Huntsville," said CW4 James Bettencourt, the last Director and Commander of the AMC Band.