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Former WAF 'bandswoman' meets AF Band of the Golden West

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Anna Andrew
  • U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West
The U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West played a community outreach concert in Corvallis, Oregon, June 8.

Beverly Passwaters, a former member of the Women in the Air Force Band, was in the audience that night, remembering her military service of nearly 60 years ago.

"We feel that we are the grandmothers of current women Air Force musicians," said Passwaters, who served as a clarinetist in the WAF Band from 1956-1959.

Capt. Jason Plosch, band commander, shared her story with the 750 Oregonians in the audience and thanked her for her service.

"It was an honor for the USAF Band of the Golden West to recognize our heritage and relay some wonderful stories about Beverly Passwaters and the other truly amazing professionals in the Women's Air Force," said Plosch.

According to the Women in Military Service for America Foundation, the WAF Band was created in 1951 at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, as the 543rd Air Force Band. In 1955 an Air Force regulation changed the 543rd Band to the official United States WAF Band. This regulation gave the WAF Band a specific mission as representatives of the USAF which was to "assist, within their capabilities, in promoting Air Force objectives and enhancing the prestige of the Air Force and the United States."

The WAF Band's mission, under the direction of Capt. MaryBelle Nissly, was the same as the 33 all-male Air Force Bands, except with additional restrictions. The women were required to be age 18-35, single, feminine in appearance, and Caucasian.

With support from Air National Guard planes, the WAF Band performed across the United States. Memorable events include a performance at the Kentucky Derby, troop support in Puerto Rico, and two inaugural parades for President Eisenhower.

The WAF Band was transferred to Norton Air Force Base, California, in 1958 and was deactivated in 1961. Women were not allowed to serve in any Air Force Band again until 1976.

Though it may be expressed in different words, the mission of current Air Force Bands is remarkably similar to the Air Force Bands of the 1960s - providing professional musical products and services for official military, recruiting, and community relations events. The USAF Band of the Golden West accomplishes this by touring a 7-state area on the West Coast, representing the excellence of all the men and women of Air Mobility Command.

Air Force Bands continue to play an important role in Air Force heritage and provide unbeatable support for Air Force Public Affairs.