By Don Bolding
Fort Hood Herald
The 15 members of the 2009 Soldier Show that presented four performances for Fort Hood soldiers and families over the weekend could all have been karaoke stars in former lives. All soldiers, they were picked because they were amateur artists but had to go through stringent competition to join a tour that is taking them to 55 locations for 110 shows in the western United States from May to November.
The tour includes Hawaii and Korea. On alternate years, the show tours the eastern states and crosses the Atlantic.
Fort Hood got four performances because it's one of the biggest "markets," so to speak. Kelsey West of the Directorate of Family & Morale, Welfare & Recreation for the post said Thursday night's opening performance drew about 2,000, and the closing show Saturday afternoon nearly filled the Abrams Physical Fitness Center.
Performer Nakita Fox, a staff sergeant at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., said the troupe was impressed and grateful that Fort Hood had put a great deal of effort into promoting the show.
"We noticed it as soon as we rolled through the gate. Not all the locations do that," she said. "And they've made us feel at home while we're here. Morale, Welfare and Recreation provides us with light snacks, and they're sure welcome."
Although the stagecraft gives the impression that everybody does everything, Fox calls herself a singer, dancer and rope-skipper. Another involves clownish roller-blading by Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Toure Clark of Columbia, S.C.
Fox and Spc. Carlos Benefield, dance captain for the group and a reservist from Union, S.C., described the thrill of deciding to send in recordings of their work and then being selected for in-person auditions for the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command at Fort Belvoir, Va. "I wanted active duty so I could do this," he said. "It was just a great opportunity have some fun and do something for other soldiers."
The group of six men and nine women has one private first class, Susan Noga, a broadcast specialist at Fort Bragg, N.C., and a chief warrant officer-2, Elaine Hudson, a property book technician of the Colorado Army National Guard. The rest are specialists, sergeants and staff sergeants, and the show several times announced that the Secretary of the Army had declared 2009 the "Year of the Noncommissioned Officer."
The group travels with two dozen crew members, some military and some civilian.
The high-spirited, 90-minute performance wound through a wide variety of solos and ensemble pieces including spiritual selections, blues and show tunes with wildly colorful costumes depicting American life of all kinds.
At the end, they called Fort Hood and III Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch to the stage to receive a plaque. Lynch said, "It seems a little backward for them to be giving an award to us," and he gave a plaque to them. He also called for members of the audience who had returned from deployment or expected deployment within three months to stand as well as family members of soldiers currently deployed.
Col. Steve Williamson said, "I've seen several of these shows, and I'm impressed every time at what they're able to accomplish. I'm nowhere near that talented. We're fortunate to have them."
Contact Don Bolding at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7557.