Face of Defense: Barbershop Quartet Creates ‘Buzz’


When Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Tillman of the Alaska Air National Guard deployed to Southwest Asia last fall, he went with the goal to start a barbershop quartet. But how it fell into place, and the impact his deployed quartet is making, has created quite a buzz.

“Whenever I hear the national anthem played at ceremonies with instruments only and no words, I offer to sing it the next time,” Tillman said. “I feel the words of our anthem are important and need to be heard.”

Tillman volunteered to be the worship leader during the Protestant chapel service, and had been in the position for a few weeks when he heard Air Force Senior Airman Chris Barajas sing. Tillman knew then he had the second member of the group.

“I knew it would be difficult to find a tenor,” Tillman said. “But as soon as I heard Chris sing, I recognized that he would make a great fit as a tenor.”

Soon after the service, Tillman approached Barajas and asked him if he had sung with any barbershop quartets.

“He responded positively and started listing off his favorite barbershop quartets,” Tillman joked. “I knew then I was well on my way to starting the group.”

Soon rehearsals began when two more deployed airmen — Air Force Capt. (Chaplain) Sean Randall and Air Force Col. Mark Danigole, wing vice commander — joined the group, forming “For God and Country.”

“The reason we named it that is because we were all serving our country and volunteering our free time in the chapel’s music programs,” Tillman said.

Tillman next used his connections as a member of an Alaska quartet to assist in training his deployed quartet. The group responded by sending music, helping the newly formed quartet to learn tracks and come together as performers.

With a little practice, the group began singing the national anthem and other music at several events.

“To say the least, wing members were amazed that we could produce the sound that we did,” Tillman said. “At one event, the crowd wanted us to sing more, even after we sang all the songs we knew. So we ended up singing a few songs twice, and they loved it.”

Tillman will be finishing his deployment in a few weeks, and he said he is grateful that the members of “For God and Country” were able to use their voices to boost the morale of the deployed members around them.

“I am thrilled that we were able to pull it off during our short deployment together,” Tillman said. “It’s been a great run with fantastic results, and I am just happy to be a part of it.”

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