Army musicians and the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) band partnered during Exercise Coastwatchers recently.
CAPTION: WO1 Mick Beeton, from the 1st Field Regiment Band, leads the Solomon Islands Police Force band during a march-out parade for new recruits in Honiara. Story by Lieutenant Geoff Long. Photo by Corporal Jonathan Goedhart.
Warrant Officer Class One Mick Beeton, Bandmaster of the 1st Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery (1 Regt, RAA), band, and vocalist/ukulele player Private Kristen Ross-Munro, worked with the RSIPF band as part of the exercise.
They said nothing broke through cultural and language barriers better than music.
“It’s been great to work with the RSIPF band and learn about the role they play in the police force,” WO1 Beeton said.
“For Exercise Coastwatchers, our main focus has been to spend time with the RSIPF band to do some theory and practical training, as well as perform.”
The annual exercise series, designed jointly by the ADF and RSIPF, includes boats training, community engagement programs and humanitarian and disaster response planning exercises.
This year’s event – the first since 2019 because of COVID-19 restrictions – is being held in three phases. The last will be held in November.
One of the key goals for 1 Regt, RAA is to work with the RSIPF band capability ahead of the Pacific Games, which will be held in Solomon Islands for the first time in November next year.
As well as specific skills training in the classroom, the 1 Regt, RAA musicians have performed with the Solomon Islands police in a number of street parades and march-out ceremonies.
Again, the common language of music has made the job easier, according to WO1 Beeton.
“Integrating with the police band has been a real pleasure. The signals they use are the same as we use back home, so it’s been a real treat to perform with these men and women down the main street of Honiara,” he said.
The 1 Regt, RAA band members have also been involved in a range of community engagement activities, performing in towns and churches.
For Private Ross-Munro, the ukulele proved a secret weapon when it came to connecting with communities.
“Everyone can join in and relate to the ukulele. It’s a relaxed and fun instrument,” Private Ross-Munro said.
“Getting out to the villages also shows the communities that Australia is engaged in the country and willing to create relationships for the long term.”
The two band members are planning to build on their work later in the year during the final phase of the exercise series in November.
“For Coastwatchers 3, we hope to continue the foundation training we’ve started here and hopefully we can also get a few of the police band members back to Australia to do some of our promotion courses, to continue their growth and development as musicians,” WO1 Beeton said.