While musical excellence has always been its standard, The United States Army Field Band has not always been its name. Near the close of World War II, Chief Warrant Officer Chester E. Whiting returned from overseas duty to help organize The First Combat Infantry Band. Composed entirely of Soldiers with musical talents who had served in combat in all theaters of the war, the band began an immediate mission of bolstering support for their fellow Soldiers. Initially, the band toured for a year and a half performing in community outreach concerts that also supported the sale of War Bonds. Its success earned the band the unofficial title "The Million Dollar Band."
In 1946, General Jacob Devers, commander of the Army Ground Forces, commissioned Chief Whiting to "organize a band that will carry into the grassroots of our country the story of our magnificent Army, its glorious traditions and achievements." As a result, the First Combat Infantry Band became the Army Ground Forces Bandand performed in the nation's capital and toured extensively in the United States and Europe. In 1950, the Army Ground Forces became the Army Field Forces, consequently changing the band's name to The United States Army Field Band.
Although these early years brought many name changes, the band's mission never wavered. The Musical Ambassadors of the Army maintain this mission by bringing the American Soldier and a diverse musical repertoire to local, national, and international audiences.
The Field Band continually demonstrates its ability to change in meeting operational challenges. The development of various performing components has enhanced the band's mission throughout the past six decades.
In 1957, the Musical Ambassadors asked 34 bandsmen to double as the Soldiers' Chorus. Witnessing one of these performances, Major General W. Preston Corderman remarked, "[This organization], through its stirring musical renditions, is one of the most effective vehicles for bringing the U.S. Army closer to the American people." Within the next twelve years, the Soldiers' Chorus became a separate component of trained vocalists, performing both with and without the Concert Band in spreading the Army message.
With the transformation of the American musical landscape in the 1960s, the unit created the Studio Band, a unique group tailored to meet the Army's needs in reaching young people through high school performances with the Soldiers' Chorus. Colonel Hal Gibson recalled, "We made vast changes and our attendance figures soared." Today, as the Jazz Ambassadors, they focus on jazz and take an active role in promoting the Army in the United States and abroad.
An emphasis on innovation sparked the 1981 formation of a component dedicated to high-energy popular music, the Volunteers. An early concentration on local commitments quickly broadened to include troop support and recruiting appearances.
The varied and inspirational fashion in which The U.S. Army Field Band fulfills its mission sparked this comment from a fan in Durango, Colorado, which holds true for each of the band's components throughout its history. "[They] remind us all that not only do we have one of the most colorful pasts of any nation in the world but an exciting future, if we'll just reach out and grab it."