Neither AR 670-1 or DA Pam 670-1, the go-to manuals for uniforms, apparel, and insignia, make it crystal-clear under what circumstances it is appropriate for officers to wear their branch-colored ceremonial belts. But when ranking members of Adjutant General’s Corps don their gold-trimmed, dark blue-and-scarlet ceremonial belts, there’s a good chance they’ll get to see members of their branch display their artistic side. That’s because a great many official Army ceremonies feature bands—and Army bands are classified as Adjutant General units under Standard Requirements Code 02.

In the months leading up to World War II, the Adjutant General’s Department created the “Morale Division,” a program which was charged with allaying the “mental stresses and strains” of soldiers and bolstering esprit de corps. The move was made because, as well-intentioned as they might have been, groups like the Salvation Army and YMCA had failed during World War I to effectively counterbalance the stressors faced by troops who had found themselves thousands of miles from home. Headed by Colonel Henry Pfeil, the program initially resorted to low-hanging fruit—transforming camp huts into community centers featuring ping pong, billiards, movies, and even dancing—to keep the soldiers from growing homesick or enmeshed in worries.

Expanded and renamed the Special Services Division in January, 1942, the program comprised two branches, Athletic and Recreation, and soon broadened its horizons to include drama and musical productions. Heading up the music program was Lieutenant Colonel Howard C. Bronson, a professional musician who had formerly been a member of the famed John Philip Sousa Band. Reporting to the Chief of Special Services, Bronson took a special interest in promoting the scores of Army band (more than 500) that were created during the war, and he soon earned de facto recognition as Chief of Army Bands—a duty that’s currently administered by the Commandant of the Adjutant General School.

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