"The Governor's Own"

126 Army Band

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The 126th Army Band of the Michigan National Guard, the "Governor's Own" as of 2013, has been entertaining the citizens of Michigan for over 50 years. Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the band has earned praise from music critics and audiences alike. The band is assigned to the Michigan National Guard Headquarters in Lansing, Michigan, and is stationed at the Belmont Readiness Center in Belmont, Michigan.

The tradition of military music in the Michigan National Guard dates back to colonial militia units at Michigan’s frontier forts. Colonial regiments stationed at Ft. Detroit, Ft. Mackinac, and Ft. Michilimackinac all employed drummers, fifers, or buglers as signal musicians as early as the 18th century. At the beginning of the Civil War, State Militia Regiments were each assigned a Regimental Band which was often uniformed and outfitted at the expense of the regimental officers. Many Michigan artillery, infantry, and cavalry regiments marched to war with such bands. During the Civil War, General George A. Custer, Commanding General of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade, even went so far as to order the band first into battle in a famous engagement at Brandy Station. By the middle of the war, it became apparent that the large number of regimental bands was taxing the pay, personnel, and support systems of the army in the field. General order 91 (July 29, 1862) disbanded regimental bands and allowed one band of sixteen musicians each per brigade. 

The 126th Army Band can trace its direct heritage back to the Headquarters Battery and Band of the 119th Field Artillery in Lansing. The Band of the 119th was active with the Headquarters unit during the Spanish-American War (at Santiago), World War I, and World War II. 

In 1941, the 119th Field Artillery’s Headquarters Band was federally recognized as Band,

119th Field Artillery and inducted into Federal service on April 7 in Lansing. By 1943, personnel constraints in the U.S. Army once again caused the disbandment of all regimental bands and the 119th Field Artillery Band was disbanded on March 15, 1943 at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. The 119th Field Artillery Band was then reconstituted and redesignated as the 46th Infantry Division Band on August 25, 1945. The 46th Infantry Division Band received federal recognition on December 16, 1946 and was commanded by Warrant Officer JG James H. Jennings.

In 1956, the 46th Infantry Division Band was disbanded, reorganized, and moved to the armory at 7 Michigan Avenue NW in Grand Rapids. Warrant Officer Charles R. Berry was chosen to command the new 46th Infantry Division Band which was made up of members of the Lansing band and members from the band of the 126th Infantry Regiment which had been stationed in Grand Rapids before their disbandment and subsequent reassignment to the U.S. Air Force.

In 1965, the 46th Infantry Division Band was moved to the armory in Wyoming, Michigan. Two years later, on July 24, 1967 the band was ordered into active Federal service for the Detroit Riots and released from active Federal service on August 2, 1967.

On February 1, 1968 the 46th Infantry Division Band was reorganized and redesignated as the 126th Army Band and was relieved from assignment to the 46th Infantry Division. In 1973, Warrant Officer Paul Walters assumed the command of the band and held that position until his retirement in 1999. From 1999 to 2003, the band was under the command of Chief Warrant Officer Joseph Bruinsma and directed by First Sergeant Jim Zwarensteyn.

In January, 2014 the band moved from the Grand Valley Armory the new Belmont Armory. Today the band is under the direction of Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jon Montgomery and First Sergeant Devin Hahn.

COMMANDER: CW3 Jon Montgomery, Bandmaster
Chief Warrant Officer Jon Montgomery is a native of Reed City, Michigan, and serves as the Commander and Conductor of the 126 Army Band, Michigan Army National Guard. Chief Montgomery holds a degree in Music Education from Aquinas College.

Chief Montgomery entered the Army in 1989, as a saxophonist with the 126 Army Band and also served with the 108th Army Band in Phoenix, AZ. After a rigorous selection process, he was awarded command of the 126 Army Band in 2003. Upon graduation of Army Warrant Officer School at Fort Rucker, Alabama, he attended the Warrant Officer Band Leader Course and Advanced Warrant Officer Course at the US Army School of Music, Norfolk, Virginia.

As a professional jazz saxophonist, Chief Montgomery has performed with: The Temptations / The Four Tops / Aretha Franklin / Lou Rawls / Oak Ridge Boys / The Grand Rapids Symphony / Bill Watrous / The Silver Bullet Band / Lou Christie / Johnny Mathis / Bob Hope / The Drifters and many others.

In addition to commanding the 126 Army Band, Chief Montgomery has written over 450 music arrangements and is a music teacher at Black River Public School in Holland Michigan.

Chief Montgomery's many awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, National Defense Service Medal, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon, Michigan Broadsword Service Medal and Arizona Service Ribbon.


In May, 2013, the 126th Army Band was declared "The Governor's Own". The official ceremony was on July, 2013 at the Camp Grayling Memorial and Review. See the proclamation here.