Country music singer performs double duty

Story and Photos by Sgt. David Scott
196th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE TAJI, Iraq — A Soldier working as a maintenance officer in an armored cavalry regiment would normally be no exceptional matter. But at Camp Taji, Iraq, a 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment warrant officer rocks that assumption.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Darby Ledbetter, a maintenance officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, Regimental Support Squadron, 278th ACR, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Midland, Texas, native, is also an Emmy award-winning country music artist.

“To get behind that guitar is probably the best thing I can think of to do here,” Ledbetter said. “It’s my sanctuary to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday. We’re here in Iraq. There’s a lot of stress.”

Music and singing were part of Ledbetter’s childhood.

“I grew up singing,” he said. “My Family sings. I grew up listening to country music in my room. I grew up wanting to write these songs. Then I moved to Nashville and grew up with singers and songwriters.”

The rising country music star said he has visited the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tenn., on many occasions and was inspired early on by the songs of country music star Ronnie Milsap.

“He was always on the cusp of new music,” Ledbetter said.

Ledbetter has spent 11 years in the military, with multiple deployments to Southwest Asia, and gets his inspiration from what service members and civilians do to serve their country, and how they execute their duties so selflessly, he said.

Ledbetter said the lyrics of “I Won’t Let My Guard Down” provide a realistic account of what it means to serve in the National Guard and overseas with the 278th ACR.

“I think it has a dual meaning for all of us,” he said. “You know the time that we are in and we’re over here not letting our guard down. I know that we also have civilians here who are working hard alongside of the military for our nation. I just want to bring a face and a name to the Soldiers who do all of this.”

Ledbetter’s video for “I Won’t Let My Guard Down,” which is promoted on the National Guard recruiting Web site, won an Emmy award in January from the Nashville/Midsouth Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, in the entertainment category. Four months later, a smiling Ledbetter said he is still somewhat in awe over the award.

“It feels surreal, really,” Ledbetter said. To have an impact like that video had is just incredible.”

Ledbetter said he already had some accompanying musical talent from his fellow unit members when he arrived in theater. However, he made a casting call for additional talent and brought in three additional musicians and one additional vocalist for his band, “Indirect Fire.”

The band was assembled only a few weeks ago, said bass guitarist and backup vocalist Darryl Robinson, a contractor with KBR, Inc. and an East Orange, N.J., native.

“I have been performing in front of troops since 2003,” Robinson said. “This time, Morale, Welfare and Recreation personnel contacted me and asked if I would be interested in playing with Darby. It is a blessing to be able to perform”.

Ledbetter, accompanied by “Indirect Fire,” performed his self-described mix of country, rock and pop music for about two hours May 5 as part of an evening event celebrating the relocation and reopening of a rest and relaxation area behind the chapel at COB Taji. The facility, known as ‘The Mud House,’ hosted about 80 people and included food, games and outdoor sports.

As part of a local talent show, Ledbetter and ‘Indirect Fire” played three days later in front of a live audience of about 300 people at the Sgt. Jon M. Schoolcraft III Stage and Memorial Pavilion at COB Taji.

Ledbetter’s first album, “Soldier Up,” was produced in 2009. Ledbetter said he plans to promote this work when he returns from deployment.

In the interim, Ledbetter continues to support the upcoming responsible drawdown of troops and equipment from Iraq, as well as the music libraries of the Soldiers deployed with him.

 

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Emmy award-winning country music artist and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Darby Ledbetter, a maintenance officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, Regimental Support Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Midland, Texas, native performed live music along with his band “Indirect Fire” May 5 at Contingency Operating Base Taji, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David A. Scott)

news photo
Emmy award-winning country music artist and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Darby Ledbetter, a maintenance officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, Regimental Support Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Midland, Texas, native performed live music along with Darryl Robinson, a contractor with KBR, inc. at the Sgt. Jon M. Schoolcraft III Stage and Memorial Pavilion May 8 at Contingency Operating Base Taji, Iraq, (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David A. Scott)

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Audience members at the Sgt. Jon M. Choolcraft III Stage and Memorial Pavilion listen to Emmy award-winning country music artist and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Darby Ledbetter, a maintenance officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, Regimental Support Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Midland, Texas, native, and his band “Indirect Fire” perform May 8 at Contingency Operating Base Taji, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David A. Scott)