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Posted: June 22, 2018 8:42 a.m.
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Captain creates community through choir

Staff Sgt. Lerone Simmons/

Capt. Ashleigh Whiteside, resource manager, 3rd ID RSSB, sings “Open my Heart,” during the Bagram’s Got Talent competition, June 8, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

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BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Capt. Ashleigh Whiteside, resource manager, 3rd Infantry Division Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade, creates connections through music whether it is in the states or thousands of miles across the sea in Afghanistan.

She has been singing ever since she can remember. This Army captain finds her community through music in her life.

“I grew up singing in choirs,” said Whiteside. “I love the melodies, the laughter when preparing for a service, the comradery, and the genuine relationships you build with others.”

Whiteside participates in the church choir here on Bagram Airfield. For her, the chorus is not only about expressing her faith through music, she also builds relationships with the other parishioners. 

“The members of the choir, other Soldiers, contractors, and Department of Defense civilians across BAF that volunteer their time and talents to the choir all have our own stories but we come together with a common goal: praise and worship,” she said.

This community creates a familiarity for Whiteside. 

“The biggest impact this group of talented musicians and vocalists make for me is when we see each other outside the choir environment,” Whiteside said. “It’s more like interacting with family when you’re away from home for so long.”

The community Whiteside inspires through music doesn’t stop with the choir. In the office or around the base, many people catch her carrying a tune.

“We are people that like to sing a lot and celebrate. She heard us singing and wanted to share her voice,” said Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina Pfc. Aldin Dzambegovic, a reconnaissance infantryman. “When we heard her we stopped singing. We ask to listen to her sing everytime we see her.”

Dzambegovic and the other members of the security platoon connected with Whiteside through music. They were impressed by her and often hear her sing whenever she comes through the compound gates. 

Bagram’s Got Talent, a talent show competition, was recently held on post. Dzambegovic and his team immediately thought that Whiteside had to compete. 

“When we saw the advertisement for Bagram’s Got Talent we thought first of the captain,” Dzambegovic said. “All the squads talked amongst each other and we agreed that she should sing.”

Whiteside said the Bosnians serving at the gates encouraged her to compete.

“They heard me singing one day and after that I would stop and talk and sign for them all of the time,” she said. “They encouraged me for a week to sign up and audition.”

Finally it was time for the show. The Bosnians showed their support for Whiteside, turning up to cheer her on. 

“When Capt. Whiteside went on stage, she took it to the next level,” Dzambegovic said. “It looked like a professional having a concert.”

“I was so nervous sitting in the audience,” she said. “When I realized my turn was coming, I got into game mode and just brought my mind to a place of ‘you do this all the time.’”

Whiteside took home the win performing “Open my Heart” by Yolanda Adams. 

“It felt so natural and comfortable. I enjoyed it so much,” she said. “I shed a tear at the fact that I was done.”

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