By Eduardo Szklarz/Diálogo August 03, 2016 The U.S. Fleet Forces Band (USFFB) participated in a huge military parade in Buenos Aires on July 9th and 10th during celebrations for the 200th anniversary of Argentina’s Declaration of Independence. The USFFB performed with 17 other military and security forces bands from the Americas, Europe, and Africa. “The event was a wonderful opportunity to showcase the partnership between Argentina and the United States,” U.S. Navy Lieutenant Robert J. “Seph” Coats, director of the USFFB, told Diálogo. “With our presence, we were able to clearly demonstrate this partnership and the continued goodwill among our countries.” The USFFB traveled to Argentina as part of an initiative of the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) to join Argentines in celebration of their bicentennial. Also participating in the parade were the Bolivian Army Military Band, the Brazilian Army’s 2nd Armored Cavalry Brigade Band, the Chilean Army Concert Band, the Spanish Air Force Band, the French Paratroopers Band, Italy’s 8thBersaglieri Regiment Fanfare Band, the Moroccan Royal Air Force Band, the Paraguayan Army Command’s Military Concert Band, the Peruvian Armed Forces Joint Band, and the Uruguayan Air Force Band. Argentinian ensembles included the Argentine Army Symphonic Group, the Argentine Navy Band, the Argentine Air Force Band, and the “Alto Peru” Fanfare Band of the “General San Martín” Regiment of Mounted Grenadiers. Also playing were the “General Martín Miguel de Güemes” National Gendarmerie School Special Band, the Argentine Naval Prefecture Band, and the Argentine Federal Police Band. “Meeting the other bands was excellent. We had many opportunities to play together, have conversations, and exchange experiences,” Lt. Coats said. “The lives of military musicians are very similar, even though we are from different countries. It is always a pleasure to be able to get to know our colleagues a little better, and it is always an honor to work together to pay homage to nations and commemorate their independence.” Intense Programming Marching along the emblematic Avenida Libertador in the Argentine capital, the USFFB performed the official song of the U.S. Navy, “Anchors Aweigh,” and a traditional march called “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean.” “The reception in Buenos Aires was exceptional. The people and the authorities were warm and welcoming, and there was a real sense of camaraderie,” Lt. Coats said. Escorted by 4,000 troops from the Argentine Armed Forces and accompanied by thousands of people, the musicians marched to the Argentine Polo stadium, where each band showed off its skills, interpreting popular marches and songs from their respective countries. The USFFB stood out for its high energy, with a battery in the middle of the lawn and a singer who performed with a microphone in hand. Another group that excited the crowd was the Chilean Army Concert Band, which interpreted the tango “Adiós Nonino,” written by the Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla. The rest of the bands also had a fairly varied repertoire, including everything from the “Imperial March” (from the movie “Star Wars”) to the Italian classic, “Funiculì, Funiculà.” Festival of Democracy Argentinean President Mauricio Macri, along with national military and civil authorities, attended the bands’ concert in the polo stadium. Argentine Minister of Defense Julio Martínez called the event a “festival of democracy.” “We are very happy and appreciative of everyone’s work and all the countries that sent their bands to celebrate this bicentennial of our independence with us,” Minister Martínez said. “It has been a long time since our service members have been summoned by the National Government to march in a provession, and we were now able to do that,” concluded the minister, also acknowledging the presence of the veterans of the Falklands War. For the USFFB, it was an unforgettable event. “The activity gave us the opportunity to represent the United States and the U.S. Navy in support of a very important event for the Argentine people,” Lt. Coats said. “Our two countries are lucky enough to have a long history of independence, and the parade and the festival of military bands allowed us to join together in Argentina to celebrate this special anniversary.” Known as “The Finest of the Fleet,” the USFFB was created in 1945 and currently has 45 members, all of whom are active-duty U.S. Navy sailors. The band provides musical support to ships, military bases, foreign dignitaries, and community events in the Mid-Atlantic and Ohio River Valley areas of the United States, in addition to regularly mobilizing in Central and South America. “I feel fortunate to direct the organization, which is made up of some of the best, most talented musicians of the U.S. Navy,” Lt. Coats concluded.