Saudi and American Forces Engage... Musically
RIYADH, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – Two figures stand in a room after meeting for the first time, abundantly contrasted through culture, language and appearance, clearly representing opposite sides of the world. The camouflage adorning them, although different in color and pattern, is seemingly the only similarity. Together the figures move to study the many dots and symbols strewn about the lines of a manuscript laying on the nearby table. Intently motioning to one another through gestures and elated expressions, it is apparent they share the same passion and understand a familiar language, a universal language, music.
Capt. Richard Winkels, U.S. Army Central music liaison officer, and Col. Sultan M. Al Moneef, director of the Royal Saudi Land Forces music department, met for the inaugural, bi-lateral music engagement between U.S. and Saudi military forces at the RSLF music facility in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Sept. 18. "We may not speak a common language, but there is a universal language in music," said Winkels. The RSLF music department invited Winkels to collaborate on musical initiatives and provide insight and guidance to help further their curriculum and build their program.
"This event was very important to us, because it allows the U.S. Army to share their experiences and expertise with us so we can implement what we like into our program here," said Moneef. "They have a strong curriculum and foundation, and I am glad to provide them with insight into how we operate so that it may help to accomplish their goals," said Winkels.
USARCENT has been partnering with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through several programs for many years however, this meeting marked the first time that a U.S. Army musician has worked directly with KSA Soldiers in Saudi Arabia.
"We're able to collaborate and exchange ideas on how we implement music into our militaries which is paramount because music is an important part of the military; it preserves the heritage and tradition and represents the greatness of ones’ military from an auditory standpoint," said Winkels.
Music plays a key part in most militaries around the world and its significance is illustrated on the U.S. Army Flag. Music has been involved in battle for centuries, to intimidate the enemy and encourage combatants, and has been used to assist in organization and timing of actions in warfare. It has kept troops motivated during long marches and during times of hardship.
"Music is important in the military because it displays our spirit and pride to the public and increases morale within the organization," said Moneef. The RSLF music department gave Winkels a tour of the facilities and briefed him on their operations and goals during his visit. RSLF musicians also surprised Winkles and the U.S. entourage with several group and solo performances showcasing their talents.
"I get excited being around these Soldiers and seeing their pride and passion for music which sends a message to whoever they're engaging," said Winkels. The two music departments are keen on future engagements and plan to continue this new partnership. "Music should not be an exception in our partnership with the U.S. Army and these experiences today and in the future will help us grow professionally," said Moneef. The two had a passion for music and military duty, which united them despite their obvious differences.
"Music has no borders. I believe that it brings people together and encourages them to bond and work collectively through cultural differences," said Moneef.