Story by TSgt Samuel King Jr. on 03/28/2019During duty hours, Col. Brian "Dickey" Betts is a quiet professional an instructor pilot within Air Force Special Operations Command. Off duty, however, Betts likes to get loud on his guitar with his Airmen-comprised rock band, "Call for Fire."
The jam band recently had its biggest performance to date at the Tech. Sgt. John Chapman Medal of Honor celebration in October at Hurlburt Field, Florida. "Call for Fire" opened for country music headliners "Big and Rich" on Hurlburt's flight line in front of a couple thousand people.
It was a long journey from garage practices in 1996.
Betts, who currently serves as an individual mobilization augmentee with an Air Force career that spans 30 years, has played guitar since eighth grade and has been in rock bands since high school.
His first concert in front of people came at a church function and it couldn't have gone worse.
Betts realized too late his amplifier had no power or even an outlet to plug into.
"I made a quick decision to just go with what I had and completely faked it," said the Missouri native. "I just played along without any sound. People came up to me afterwards and complimented me on how good I sounded. I hope they were just trying to compliment me and not saying I sounded better with the sound off."
Only a year after he was commissioned, he joined his first military-member band in 1989 playing at base functions. He joined another band with each new assignment until he arrived at Hurlburt Field in 1996. There he met many of the current members of "Call for Fire," including then-Lt. Col. Brad Webb. Webb has since progressed to the rank of lieutenant general and is currently the AFSOC commander. Webb rocked the bass in those early sessions, before switching to the guitar.
The line-up for the band changed over the years due to military commitments.
"The one downside of playing with all military members is at some point, most of the band members eventually PCS," said Betts, who has played with five different bands during his Air Force career. "That can lead to the band dissolving if replacement players can't be found."
Despite their busy schedules and military obligations, the core members of "Call for Fire" play every chance their schedule allows.
"We try to get together as much as possible when I'm (at Hurlburt), as well as working around Lt. Gen. Webb's schedule," said Betts, a 747 aircraft captain in his civilian capacity. "We usually practice at least once a week as a band when I am in town."
With the constant demand of life and the special operations lifestyle, getting the band together to play can be therapeutic.
"It is a great stress reliever to get together with the rest of the band and have a blast just jamming," said Betts, adding that he considers playing the guitar somewhere between a hobby and a passion.
He has a collection of eight guitars to choose from when he is ready to jam, but he does have a clear favorite the Gibson Government Series Flying V.
"Ever since I began playing guitar I've been in love with the Flying V," said the 54-year-old, whose call sign origin is from Allman Brothers lead guitarist Dickey Betts. "I've always thought it was one of the coolest guitar designs. It has an awesome tone and just screams rock and roll."
Speaking of screaming, Betts sings on about five songs on the band's playlist, which includes everything from Aerosmith to Ozzie. But, his true talent is playing the axe.
"My youngest brother was a senior producer on American Idol for 12 seasons. He let me know I should concentrate on my guitar playing and not get any ideas about being a singer," he said. "Tough love from the little brother."
Betts said there are similarities between playing in a band and serving in the Air Force.
"Every member has a part to play to make the operation successful," he said, describing the attention-to-detail parallels between Air Force service and rocking in a band.
"If one of us misses a cue or I hit an R sharp' note, it can throw off the entire song," he said. "The same goes for an aircrew missing a time on target or maintainer missing a step in a maintenance procedure. Those teams working in harmony together can create successful mission execution."
(King is an individual mobilization augmentee assigned to the Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command public affairs office.)