There are few things in life that affect our emotions as music can. Music can help cheer you up and cause you to feel sad. Music can be relaxing and help you unwind after a long day. A song can transport you back in time in an instant, to a specific moment in a specific place. The impression it leaves upon us is quite amazing. As Homer wrote in the Illiad, “Noble and manly music invigorates the spirit, strengthens the wavering man, and incites him to great and worthy deeds.” The right music can get you pumped and fired up for a run, a workout, or the “big game.” And this is what ‘Thunderstruck’ does.

The internet and YouTube are full of videos showing military hardware kicking ass and taking names, set to rock music. After watching that, you can’t help but get inspired. It makes you almost want to yell, “sign me up!” The emotional responses to things like this are real. The mental and psychological responses to the music, are very real. In real-life combat, that can be a good thing. Being mentally prepared and in the right headspace is essential.

For a Soldier, Marine, Sailor, or Airman, music on deployment is important. It was a way to wind you up, or an attempt to help wind you down. It was also an escape. For me, sometimes the escape was in popping in the earphones and turning the music up, lights off, and private time in my rack. Other times, the escape was in the camaraderie as a group, listening to the same songs together.

Other times, it was about blasting music for the whole world to hear.


Big Speakers on Humvees

PsyOps Humvee with loudspeakers
PsyOps Humvee with loudspeakers in crowded city streets. (Photo by Sgt. 1st. Class Donald R. Dunn II/U.S. Army)

At one particular remote firebase in Afghanistan, we didn’t just have music all to ourselves. Oh, no, my friend. You see, we liked to share our music. Especially… with the Taliban and other Anti-Coalition Forces (ACF). They hate music. All music. Just about any kind of music, especially if they deem it as “blasphemous” or “indecent.” Which, again, is pretty much just about everything. Since we knew they hated music, we made sure they had music to hear whenever we could. After all, sharing is caring. And everyone likes to share good music with one another.

Having a Psychological Operations (PsyOps) unit, attached to the Civil Affairs (CA) unit, attached to the Special Forces and Advisor unit, had certain advantages. One of them was a big freaking speaker on top of a Humvee. We could make announcements to share important information to a village, for example. Or, we could tell those little ACF boneheads to drop their guns, come out of the compound, or we will bring the whole dag-gone thing down on their heads.

All from the safety and distance from our trucks.