CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait –
The last thing you might expect to hear amid the blowing sand in the sweltering desert of Kuwait is an instrument most often associated with the rolling green hills of Scotland.
As the sun sets after another hard day’s work, the calming musical drone of a bagpipe emanates across Camp Arifjan’s Zone 1, track and field area, thanks to U.S. Army Reserve Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jordan Lamoreaux, Intelligence Deputy Officer in Charge, Regional Cyber Center, Southwest Asia, Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
If you follow the sound, you will find him engulfed in the calming music he creates.
Lamoreaux is not a physically imposing man, yet his presence looms large and dominates the thick night air. The centuries-old familiar sound cuts through the stillness, while he proudly wears his kilt and plays tune after tune.
“If I am going to be here, and I have to be away from my family, I have to ask myself, ‘what can I do to turn this into a positive, and what can I gain out of it?’ I take my bagpipes everywhere I go,” said Lamoreaux. “I want to make this an opportunity. I have the ability to be uninterrupted, so I am going to try to learn some new tunes!”
According to Lamoreaux, playing bagpipes is very beneficial for the cardiovascular system. It requires very strong lungs, and in order to play properly, he says pipers have to maintain 31 PSI in the bag to keep all four reeds going. If there is any type of loss in pressure, the chanter cuts out and the piper will lose a drone. Lamoreaux likened it to blowing a tire pressure gauge to keep it at 31 PSI. He explained that pipers have to also put pressure on the bag to maintain pressure, while keeping the seal with their mouths, playing the instrument, and marching—a complicated endeavor, indeed.
“When I first started I could barely keep that bag inflated for 30 seconds,” Lamoreaux explained. “I would be a slobbering spitty, drooling mess. I thought it was broken. So, I went to my instructor who was in his 70s, and can play for like four hours straight, and he said, ‘Ah, you’re just weak!’”
The Queen Creek, Arizona, resident is no stranger to high desert temperatures or deployments. He deployed to Iraq with the Marine Corps for much of 2004, traveling on artillery missions and operations. Lamoreaux spent four years in the Marine Corps and subsequently joined the Army Reserve after a three-year break in service. Although he stays on top of his fitness and is always working to improve, the bagpipes presented a new challenge for him.
“I figured because I run marathons and everything, I was pretty fit, but it is an entire set of muscles that you just don’t ever use,” said Lamoreaux. “It’s a lot of lungs. I have to coordinate my bagpipe practice days with my exercise days. I love running, but I can’t do both on the same day. The heat makes it that much more difficult.”
Yet, the sound of bagpipes in the Middle East is not unprecedented. In fact, the origin of bagpipes can actually be traced to the Middle East, where a bag was added to reeded pipes in Egypt during the first century B.C., 150 years before appearing in Rome during the mid-first century A.D. (according to www.bagpipehistory.info).
And bagpipes have made their mark on the traditional music of other lands as well, including Greece, Egypt, Syria, Israel, Ireland, England, France, Scotland, and elsewhere.
Traditionally, bagpipe songs are referred to as ‘tunes’ according to Lamoreaux and are played to commemorate a variety of social circumstances. And there are various types of bagpipes, with Great Highland (Scotland), Uilleann Pipes (Irish), and Dudy Bagpipes (Eastern Europe), being among the most common.
Lamoreaux’s French and Scottish heritage are important to him. At a young age, he identified more with his Scottish roots and participated in Highland Games. Eventually, learning to play the bagpipes became a goal.
“I don’t know too many specific details, but my great grandpa on my mother’s side was an immigrant from Scotland. I am half French and half Scottish. I have always been into the Highland Games and Scottish culture, and I have always loved the bagpipes,” said Lamoreaux. “I played drums all my life, but learning the bagpipes was a bucket list item.”
For Lamoreaux, the bagpipes are a source of resiliency and comfort during his deployment as he is separated from his wife, Rachael, and three sons Joshua, Leonidas, and Rexton (due in August).
Back home, he works as a managing director for the cyber security branch at Charles Schwab. He came to the job well-qualified, having earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science, as well as a master’s degree in science from Western Governor’s College.
“My education has definitely helped me in both my military and civilian careers,” said Lamoreaux. “If you want to progress with your peers, there’s a certain level of expectation, respect and prestige that comes with it.”
Lamoreaux encourages his fellow Soldiers to use the benefits they’ve earned in order to improve their opportunities.
“I’m always going to exploit every resource and benefit I have earned in the military. The Army Reserve completely paid for my both of my degrees,” said Lamoreaux.
As a U.S. Army Master Resiliency Instructor, Lamoreaux suggests that Soldiers make a conscious effort to build resiliency into deployments. Emotions and anxiety can run high in a deployed environment. Missing loved ones, unexpected news from home, being at the mercy of others to handle certain important affairs while away, or simply acclimating to a new environment can all be sources of stress and can challenge Soldier resiliency.
According to Lamoreaux, it’s easy to obsess with things back home that you have no control over, especially if you don’t have any hobbies, educational endeavors, fitness pursuits, or enough social interaction.
As a self-proclaimed "geek," with a Horde tattoo from the game World of Warcraft—Lamoreaux understands the lure of video games, but stresses the importance of a balance of socialization and engaging in actual hobbies to develop well-rounded, resilient soldiers.
“For me, if I am going to be away from my family, I want to make sure I come back a better person—whether that means fitness, education, or whatever,” said Lamoreaux. “I have a saying, ‘Never put off until tomorrow a goal that you can accomplish today.’ It’s my motto. I exploit every opportunity and make a trajectory forward.”
However, the absence of his wife’s loving arms; the company of his teenage son; the laughter of a toddler; and anticipating a newborn due in August cuts into the fabric of his soul. His bagpipes provide respite and remind him to stay mission focused and resilient.
“I posted on the Camp Arifjan Facebook site as a volunteer to help people who are interested in learning to play bagpipes. While I’m here, I would be happy to teach other soldiers,” said Lamoreaux. “I am usually pretty easy to spot. Don’t be shy! You might miss out on learning something you’ll really enjoy! But, if bagpipes aren’t your thing—try to find something that brings you happiness and recharges your batteries!” said Lamoreaux. “Resilient soldiers are important to our mission successes.”