1st Infantry Division home to 1st Army vocalist
Staff Sgt. Renatta Draper, the 1st Infantry Division Band vocalist, sings at the 2007 Sundown Salute in Junction City, Kan.

FORT RILEY, Kan. - The 1st Infantry Division is a division of firsts: it fired the first American artillery shell of World War I, was the first infantry division to enter Vietnam, and the first to breach Iraqi defenses in Desert Storm.

Now, the Big Red One has one more first to claim as Staff Sgt. Renatta Draper of the 1st Inf. Div. Band is set to become the first vocalist in the U.S. Army.

Draper, who joined the Army on active duty 15 year ago as a fueler, will be the first vocalist by military occupational specialty.

The Bemidji, Minn., native described receiving the MOS not only as an honor but as a relief as well.
"It's awesome because I've been with five different bands for the last 12 years, and I pretty much thought I was running out of time," Draper said. "I was going to have to go back to my old MOS which would have been quite scary after 12 years."

First Sgt. David Fallin, the senior enlisted member of the 1st Inf. Div. Band, said Draper being the first to officially receive the title was fitting.

"She did this herself; it's one of those things she's worked hard for, and this is something she's wanted to achieve," Fallin said. "She's been very persistent at this and I'm glad it happened here at the 1st Inf. Div., but she did this on her own."

Draper, who has been an unofficial vocalist since returning from deployment to Bosnia with the 181st Transportation Battalion, has served in that capacity with five bands at U.S. Army Europe in Heidelberg, Germany; the 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Hood, Texas; the 8th Army in Seoul, Korea, and with Forces Command in Fort McPherson, Ga. She has served at Fort Riley for almost two years.

Over the course of nearly 12 years singing for the Army, Draper has performed at a variety of events, ranging from sporting venues to change of command ceremonies to high schools for recruiting purposes.

Now Draper is scheduled to return to Fort Hood, where she will serve in the same capacity for the 1st Cav. Div. Band.

Draper said she is excited to return to the post.

"I love Fort Hood; I was at the Cav Band before, and I loved it," she said. "I'm excited to be going back."

As for the 1st Inf. Div. Band, Fallin said his Soldiers are ready to fill in until a replacement is found.

"Right now, we do have a flute player that sings and the division plans on having auditions for a 1ID chorus," Fallin said. "The plan is for us to have four or five folks in that chorus to begin with. We will utilize them in the same way we utilized Staff Sgt. Draper."

Auditions for the chorus are tentatively scheduled for Jan. 9 at Barlow Theater on Custer Hill. Competition for the one-year assignment is open to staff sergeants and below who have been deployed.

Page last updated Mon December 1st, 2008 at 12:43