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"Pershing's Own" Welcomes 11th Leader and Commander, Bids Farewell to COL Timothy Holtan
By Francis Chung, Staff Photojournalist
Photo credit: SFC Chris Branagan
COL Andrew Esch assumed command of The U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own" on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017.
LTG Gary H. Cheek, Director of the Army Staff, presided over the noontime ceremony held before an audience of hundreds of well-wishers who filled the COL Samuel R. Loboda Studio at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall’s Brucker Hall.
During the proceedings, the flag of command was symbolically passed from Holtan to Cheek to Esch, who most recently served as 24th Commander of the U.S. Military Academy Band at West Point, N.Y.
In his remarks, Esch thanked Holtan for his friendship, support and example.
“You are definitely going to be a hard act to follow,” Esch told his predecessor. “But follow I must. I love the Army, I love the Army Band, and I am really excited to begin.”
Assuming leadership of TUSAB is in several ways a homecoming for Esch, a native of Fairfax, Va. and an alumnus of George Mason University who previously served as Deputy Commander and Executive Officer and Ceremonial Officer of TUSAB.
In an interview with The Pentagram, Esch said it was “incredibly humbling” to take command of the band that he often watched perform while growing up in a military family in the National Capital Region.
“I’m very aware of the honor that is being bestowed upon me,” he said. “I know what the organization means to the area and to the country and to the Army, and so I’m really excited to have the opportunity.”
While he acknowledged TUSAB’s distinguished 95-year history, Esch took a broadly forward-looking approach when discussing his vision and aspirations for "Pershing’s Own".
“The world’s changing, the Army’s changing, and the organization needs to be adaptable and agile enough to change with it,” he argued. “I will look for ways in which we can continue to improve our product and make it ever better.”
For Holtan, Monday’s ceremony put a capstone on a 28-year Army career during which he achieved the distinction of being the first officer to command all three of the Army’s premier musical units: The United States Military Academy Band, The U.S. Army Field Band and The U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own".
In his retirement speech, Holtan expressed his gratitude to the Soldiers and staff that helped TUSAB complete nearly 13,000 missions under his command. He took time to highlight his experiences with each of the various ensembles that comprise "Pershing’s Own".
“Thank you for an extraordinary 26 months,” he said. “Thank you for such inspirational musical moments. Thank you for your support and, more importantly, your trust.”
Asked by The Pentagram what advice he had for his successor, Holtan said: “Invest in your people. Take care of them, and they will take care of you.”
Staff Sgt. Carol Joe, a TUSAB flutist, praised Holtan’s concern and advocacy for the Soldiers under his command as a defining trait of his leadership style.
“He really seems to keep an eye out for every member of this element, which is amazing,” she said.
“He’s just very thoughtful. He’s a great leader,” she added. “I’m sad that he’s leaving, but I’m happy that he’s entering a new part of his life.”
Asked about his plans for retirement, Holtan said he planned to stay active and engaged.
“I know I’ll be working,” he said. “I’m not ready to go be fully retired. It will have something to do with music. I hope to be able to continue contributing in whatever way my passion for music helps.”
Photos from the event can be found at www.flickr.com/usarmyband.
Francis Chung is a Staff Photojournalist at The Pentagram Newspaper.