CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait – In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, preventative measures were implemented on Camp Arifjan, including closing facilities that service members normally used like fitness centers, the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR), the United Service Organization (USO), and all restaurants.
These measures poised a problem for the “Open Mic Night” that took place inside of a Starbucks, held every Sunday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m, which featured Soldiers showcasing their talents through singing, poetry, and standup comedy to name a few.
Several Open Mic Night regular attendees immediately began brainstorming of ways to keep the event going while heeding social distancing orders. Live streaming the performance turned out to be the perfect solution as it limited the number of performers while simultaneously maximizing the virtual audience.
Three black shower curtains, several lamps spread across the floor, a microphone and the determination to succeed was all that it took to recreate the ambiance that was the once popular Open Mic Night to the now live-streamed show “Military Sounds.”
Capt. Amanda Waller, a signal officer with the 198th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, created a Military Sounds Instagram and Facebook account not only Soldiers on Camp Arifjan to watch, but also for anyone in the world to see their loved ones perform.
“Open Mic is a recharge for me and we used to have it every Sunday, but now that we are social distancing we can’t have it anymore,” said Waller, a Baltimore, Maryland native. “Being away from home we still need to recharge. So this was me giving them [Soldiers] a recharge and giving myself a recharge.”
Spc. Keena Walker, a Movement Coordinator with the 470th Movement Control Battalion, was a regular attendee and performer and said the show gave her something to look forward to during the week.
“If I was having a hard week I would go to Open Mic Night. It really was my outlet to just sing and express myself and show people my talent,” said Walker, a Jolliet, Illinois, native.
The first Military Sounds live stream took place April 5 from 7p.m. to 9 p.m. and four Soldiers performed. The live stream was a success with more than 100 viewers from around the world tuned into either the Facebook or Instagram live stream to watch the performances from a safe distance.
The interest in the live stream proved that not only was the show a much-needed outlet for local service members, but also family and friends back home can see their loved ones perform.
Spc. Lee Chaz Reoligio, a petroleum fuel specialist with the 289th Composite Supply Company, said it felt good to have his husband watch him from miles away and was happy to keep the Open Mic spirit going.
“I think Open Mic is a great outlet for Soldiers. We need some place safe to go and express ourselves and put our voices out there. When you keep it in, that’s not safe,” said Reoligio, a Sanitaira, Guam native.
Waller strongly believes Military Sounds will continue to contribute to Soldiers’ resiliency and mental health, and intends to keep the show going for as long as possible.
“Anytime that you get a chance to give back to others, you should take advantage of that,” said Waller. Continue to listen to your music as we are all sitting here social distancing. I know this is a time where people have a lot of worry. This is a season of us loving each other, be kind to each other, and if you have nothing else you always have music to get you through.”