MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. --
A typical annual training, or A.T. day, has different definitions for nearly every member of the Air National Guard. The definition for the Air National Guard Band of the South on July 3 was a two-hour road trip that started at 5 a.m. However, for one band member it was a ride to his farewell performance.
After 24 years in team harmony with military bands, including the Band of the South, a career percussionist here tapped out his grand finale for the residents of Panama City, Fla.
Master Sgt. Eric Odiorne and the band's 40 other members finished their summer tour, playing for a military audience during a change of command ceremony at Hurlburt Field Air Force Base, followed by two performances in nearby Panama City. It was part of the city's Pier Park Summer Concert Series, with the last show being a Fourth of July fireworks concert.
For Odiorne, the fireworks added the boom to the final concert of his military career. For the band, it was the last show in their annual road tours, which entertain and educate thousands with military music and regalia.
The band will play on, but without master sergeant Odiorne.
"I will really miss the people, the comradery, and the interactions with the audiences," said Odiorne.
He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in September 1986 and played for the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps at the Marine Barracks, a short walk from the nation's Capital. He also played for the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, Calif.
"I loved serving and being a Marine, but wanted to finish what I had started in college and complete my computer programming degree," said Odiorne.
He earned his degree, but remembered his time serving as a band member.
It was a trade show four years later that brought him back to the service. There, he met Airmen from the Air National Guard Band of the Smoky Mountains, who told him the band was in need of a percussionist. Within months, Odiorne enlisted with the Tennessee Air National Guard.
"Eric has been welcoming and kind," said Master Sgt. Patrick Hydo, remembering the first time they met. "Quickly after I joined the unit he became both a friend and mentor."
Over the next twenty years, Odiorne and the Air National Guard Band of the South played for audiences throughout the southern U.S. and across the world.
In 2008, the band deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and Odiorne was there with his percussion talents. He and other band members said the deployment still holds special memories.
"I am in denial that he is retiring," said Tech. Sgt. Traci Carico. "There was a special bond formed [during deployment]. Eric was a key part of holding the group together and has always been a great mentor for our Airmen."
That bond resonates through the team.
"I haven't known Eric for as long as some of the others, but I absolutely adore his complete sense of ease," said Tech. Sgt. David Fairchild. "There has not been a situation that I have been in with him where he has not been the epitome of our band - confident, relaxing and welcoming."
With his instruments packed away, Odiorne will orchestrate his career as a software developer at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.
"Juggling two separate careers was becoming too difficult to balance, so something had to give," said Odiorne. "This final tour was fantastic, and I'm just happy that I was able to be part of it with my Guard family."