AF Entertainment gives Airmen, families break from work, life stressors

  • Published
  • By Debbie Aragon

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – Just step away and breathe. It’s a simple yet well-established tool when it comes to managing daily stressors in our lives. 

Providing Airmen, Guardians and their families opportunities to step away, breathe and just be in the moment is a key focus of the Air Force Services Center (AFSVC) and its Air Force Entertainment program managers.

“We all have stressors in our daily lives, so it’s important to look for ways to step away from those stressors, even if it’s just for a few hours,” said Jeri White, Air Force Entertainment LIVE STAGE production director.

“It’s great to be able to bring entertainment to a base that gives Airmen, Guardians, families and friends a way to enjoy some camaraderie … maybe some time to find the best corn hole player, let loose in a new bounce house or some bonding with an older child over the experience of a first concert,” White said, “and all of this at no cost to the individuals.”

Since 2016, White and the AFSVC team have worked with installations and performers – comedians, musical artists and other entertainers – to deliver free, first-class performances at locations throughout the U.S. 

The AF Entertainment team works with booking agencies to find the talent for tours but it’s a true partnership between AFSVC and installations when it comes to entertaining an audience. 

“We work with installation leaders to find the right type of performers and venues, and with force support squadron teams to execute a plan that makes sure each event is a huge success whether it be a more intimate comedy show or full-blown concert series,” White said.

Michael Freund is the LIVE STAGE assistant production manager and is often boots on the ground at installations to make sure all goes well.  

“These events are some of the most important things in my eyes because they provide a fun event for all ages and are free,” said Freund.   

“I work with a team of operational and technical contractors to ensure the production aspect of the concerts are completed correctly and safely,” he said. “It takes an extremely qualified team of professionals to oversee the myriad of details involved to make the event a success.”   

Minot AFB, North Dakota, was one of five installations that hosted LIVE STAGE rock festivals in August featuring Skillet, Hoobastank and We the Kings.  

“I think it is easy to forget sometimes, especially after the amount of isolation that occurred during the COVID lockdowns, how important social events like Rock Fest are for building morale especially at a remote base like Minot,” said Matthew Balas, 5th Force Support Squadron deputy director at Minot.  

“Local bases often times don’t have the resources to be able to provide this level of entertainment so when an organization like AFSVC can come in and deliver such a top-notch product that is free to the Airmen, that’s an awesome opportunity!”

Having a high-level concert on their installation left a positive, lasting impression for every Airman and family that was able to attend, Balas added.

“From the artists, Air Force Entertainment staff and crew, and all of the many local partners … the entire team came together for one purpose … make this event a memorable one for all of the hardworking and deserving Airmen and their families,” he said, “and all involved knocked it out of the park!”

“When I talk to people at events, they say our shows give them a day to just forget about everything going on and really enjoy themselves,” Freund added.

Like elsewhere in the entertainment industry, when COVID hit in 2020 AFSVC tried to hold on to dates they’d set up for concerts and variety shows by working with base leadership to decide whether to host a show or postpone it. Most of the time, AFSVC was able to postpone the show until a later date because booked performers understood the situation and worked with White to come up with new dates. For some installations, that meant concert dates were pushed a year.

Although the first LIVE STAGE concert following the breakout of COVID was in the summer of 2021, it wasn’t necessarily smooth sailing afterward.

“Over the last year, as we were planning and prepping for concerts, COVID numbers started to climb again and we became concerned and reached out to base leadership,” White said. “Most often, we heard commanders say, ‘We are doing this concert. My people need this. My Airmen and families have been cooped up long enough. We need this as a shot in our arms.’”

That was important feedback, White said, since one goal of concerts is to get Airmen and Guardians out of their dormitories. 

“We work with each base hosting a concert to make the event more than just a concert and encourage them to put Airmen on planning committees, so they have a voice in the event,” she said. “We know that it’s easy for bases to do things for families and children and sometimes it seems like we’ve forgotten our Airmen.”

Bases are chosen for a particular type of entertainment based on a matrix that includes things like priority of need, location and lack of opportunity for other entertainment in the local off-base community. Normally, a base will see a live concert about every two to three years.

“We’re trying to deliver a concert on that schedule, but COVID did a number on that, so we’re still trying to get back to bases that missed out,” White said. “We also look at what bases are close enough to each other so that we can do back-to-back weekends, saving on the cost of the production, manpower and the bands because we can book them as a bundle.”

Cost savings are important, given the size of LIVE STAGE concerts.

“When we bring in a concert, it comes with all the bells and whistles and is in line with what the base populace would experience at a major concert off base … the stage is 100 ft x 40 ft, has a roof that is 35 ft high and has three video walls that are 12 ft x 16 ft. We have cutting-edge lighting and audio systems that use the latest technology and meet the highest of standards. 

“We go all out because the Air Force believes in its Airmen and Guardians,” White said.

“People who haven’t attended any of our events may not understand that these are major events,” Freund said, “and when I say major event I mean full-sized music festivals with full stage, food vendors, family events and more with highly popular artists.”

There are numerous chances for people to experience an event in the coming months. 

• Illusionist Mike Super began a 40-installation tour Sept. 20 at Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts, and it ends Dec. 4 in San Antonio following shows from coast to coast. 

• The 2022 Fall-Fest Concert Series begins in October and includes Tyndall AFB, Florida, Oct. 14; Moody and Robins AFBs, Georgia, Oct. 15 and 21 respectively; and Patrick Space Force Base, Florida, Oct. 22. It includes performances by Fuel, 30H!3, Skillet and Sick Puppies. 

• The 2023 schedule includes 15-20 major concerts and close to 150 variety and comedy shows.

To find out what’s going on near you, reach out to your force support squadron through its web site, Facebook page or stop by one of the FSS facilities on your installation. Information is also available at