WASHINGTON, May 1, 2014 – The British army’s 1st Battalion Scots Guards band performed at the Pentagon today, nearly a week after five British soldiers died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, and on the first day of National Military Appreciation Month in the United States.
Between performances, James J. Townsend Jr., deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy, and British Army Brigadier Douglas M. Chalmers, liaison officer for the chief of the British defense staff, delivered remarks to an enthusiastic Pentagon audience.
“We have bled together not just in Afghanistan and Iraq, but over history in many places, in Europe in World War I and in World War II,” Townsend told Chalmers and the Guardsmen.
“Having you here today is especially important to us,” he added, “as once again in Europe, in the Baltics and other places, we’re together again facing down activities happening in Crimea and the Ukraine that go against our values, and it’s great to have you alongside us.”
The band is made up of 12 bagpipers, 10 drummers and two dancers and is led by a pipe major. But for the benefit of the American audience, Townsend said, the band members do more than play the drums or bagpipes.
“You are the oldest infantry battalion in the U.K., and you also have skills in terms of engineering and in terms of all aspects of combined arms that you display on the battlefield,” he said, adding, “So while we enjoy your musicianship here, we know being good Scots Guards you enjoy a scrap.”
As Chalmers addressed the audience, he said he and the Scots Guards were happy to be at the Pentagon to show their appreciation for the defense and security partnership the United Kingdom shares with the United States.
“That partnership is deep, it is advanced and it sits on a bedrock of shared values and beliefs,” he said, adding that over the years “events have more often than not seen us serve alongside each other in foreign fields as a result of that partnership.”
“That fact is vividly brought to life to me today by the Guardsmen … and the pipes and drums, who are infantrymen first,” he added. “Most of them served alongside U.S. Marines in Helmand toward the end of 2012 and into 2013.”
The Scots Guards formed in 1642 as the Royal Guard to King James I, Chalmers said, and he encouraged all to reflect on the long history of military cooperation that has and will continue to be the driving force behind the U.S.-United Kingdom strategic defense relationship.
“I think our common language, our geography and very much our shared interwoven history, for all its ups and downs over time, has been one of genuine trust and honesty,” Chalmers said. “It’s not politically correct. It’s is a genuine relationship that has stood the test of time, and it’s been proven.”
Over the past 10 years, U.S. and U.K. service members have worked hand in glove at every level, building up personal relationships between soldiers and Marines on the U.S. side and on the British side, the brigadier added.
When British soldiers fought in Afghanistan’s Helmand province alongside their U.S. Marine Corps colleagues, he said, “it created a very strong bond, a brothers-in-arms type of affair, that is really special. And unfortunately, the future looks like it’s going to continue keeping that relationship in place.”
Townsend explained that crises come at the world fast, and the velocity seems to be increasing. “It’s tough to face these kinds of crises as the United States by ourselves,” he said. “We have the NATO alliance, we have many bilateral relationships around the world, many allies globally, but we depend on the U.K. in so many different ways.”
The United States depends on the United Kingdom “not just to be with us in a scrap somewhere or to handle a crisis, but around the negotiating tables or the planning tables or around the tables where we try to think about the future or about what kind of capabilities we should have or what we can do jointly,” the deputy assistant secretary observed.
“We depend on our relationship with the U.K. to help us face these things as they come at us,” he added, “so in a lot of ways the U.K. is first among equals when it comes to dealing with the international crisis of the day. And I cannot tell you how important that is and how much we depend on it. They’ve always been there for us, no matter how tough the scrap.”