FRANCIS E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. - It started at age 5, when he was given a choice for Christmas gifts.
"My mom was like, you can do martial arts, or play guitar," he said. "I got a guitar for Christmas."
At 22 years old, Airman 1st Class Dylan Westmoreland, 90th Security Forces Squadron defender and Antlers, Oklahoma, native, has been pursuing his dream of country music stardom since then.
With an album release, he is hoping it will give him the credibility he needs to fulfill his musical aspirations.
"I'm excited for him," said Airman 1st Class Chris Bartling, a friend and fellow 90th SFS defender. "I believe he's talented, determined and driven enough [to] succeed. I can't wait to be there when it happens, not only because I care about him, [but also because of the] struggle he has gone through to get to where he is."
Westmoreland said he chose the guitar because he was inspired by watching his uncle, Tim Westmoreland, play. He started taking guitar lessons shortly after that Christmas, but sadly those guitar lessons were short-lived, as he would later be forced to quit.
"At about 8, I quit going to lessons," he said. "The car broke down and we couldn't go back and forth [to lessons]."
This setback did not stop Westmoreland from practicing what he already learned.
"I kept playing, I kept picking it up, I kept messing around with the guitar," he said. "I started listening to the radio and taught myself how to play from there."
From the age of 8, Westmoreland continued to build on the foundation of what he had learned. He began to regularly sing and play in church throughout his childhood.
He gained public attention for his musical abilities when he played in his high school's jazz band, he recalled.
His teachers, recognizing his musical talent, collaborated with school officials and scheduled Westmoreland to play for Antlers High School's veterans memorial program to honor veterans. Westmoreland was asked to cover a Toby Keith song, but he had his own plan.
"I wrote my own song," he said. "It was called 'Pledge of Allegiance to the Soldiers,' and I played that at the memorial program. That's when I started getting noticed. That's when I started playing shows - talent shows, and things like that."
After winning second place in his region for the largest country music talent show, called Country Showdown, he began booking regular gigs in a local casino after high school.
It wasn't until spring 2011, when he submitted an audio file of a song he wrote entitled, "Country to the Bone," to a local music group in Oklahoma, that Westmoreland saw a glimmer of hope in getting his music out to the country music world.
"I completely forgot I had sent anything to them," he said. "About eight months later, I got a call."
The music group showed interest in his music and explained how they could assist in his musical endeavors, he said. They wanted to eventually help record an album for him when the time was right. That time would not be until years later.
As time passed, circumstances in his life at that time spurred Westmoreland to consider military service.
"I had been thinking about joining the military for a while," he said. "I was working in the oil fields, and wanted some stability. I've seen a whole crew get fired on the spot"
Westmoreland enlisted in the Air Force in March 2014, to become a security forces Airman. After completing basic training and technical school, he was contacted again by the music group letting him know they were ready for him to come in the studio to record his album.
"I was really excited," he said. "This was my chance finally, to be able to record an album."
Upon completion of the album, Westmoreland arrived at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in December and transitioned into base defense operations.
"He's an all-around good [Airman]," said Senior Airman Anthony McCord, Westmoreland's supervisor.
Once McCord became Westmoreland's supervisor, he recognized Westmoreland as a "unique individual with a lot of confidence."
"He acts like a singer," he said.
Standing at 6 feet and 3 inches, with a slender, athletic build, Westmoreland looks like a country singer too.
Westmoreland expressed a sense of relief when he completed his album with eight original tracks.
"I finally made it a step towards actually getting the album done and getting that publicity and somebody behind me," he said. "It's very hard to get anybody behind you anymore."
With a recorded studio album ready to be released and the support of the music group back home in Oklahoma, he hopes the album release will be the push he needs to get brand-name recognition.
Bartling further expressed his support for Westmoreland after having heard the album.
"I was highly impressed with it," Bartling said. "Westmoreland always told me he was a good singer and songwriter. He's my friend and I took his word for it, but then, when I sat down and heard it, I was like, this should be on the radio."
U.S. Air Force Article and photo by Lan Kim
Provided through DVIDS
Comment on this article