Soldiers soar in Army Strong show
September 6, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla.-- After graduating from basic combat training at Fort Sill in May 2011, then-Pvt. Genesis Rodriguez eventually went to Advanced Individual Training at Fort Lee, Va., to become a parachute rigger. It was during AIT that Rodriguez saw her first Army Soldier Show.
"I thought it would be really cool to be part of that group," said Rodriguez, 20, and now a specialist.
At her first duty station at Fort Benning, Ga., her chief warrant officer learned she could sing and dance. He encouraged her to audition for the show.
In December, she sent audition videotapes to the Soldier Show producers. In February she was invited to a live audition at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
The competition was tough, said Rodriguez, who graduated from the Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music in 2009.
"When I heard some of the females sing and the guys sing, I thought they're really, really good," she said. "I don't know if I'll make it, but here I am today."
Rodriguez was one of the 19 entertainers in the 2012 Army Soldier Show, sponsored by SHARP, who performed at Sheridan Theater here Aug. 28.
This year's theme is "Army Strong," said Sgt. Drake DeLucca, Soldier Show multimedia director.
"It's not just physical strength. It's a spiritual, emotional and physical strength that we can only get from our Army family," said DeLucca, who is in his second year with the show.
On Aug. 28, the show's 19 performers and four technicians were busy setting up the stage for that evening's performance. They received assistance from 10 Soldiers from the 75th Fires Brigade.
It takes several hours to put up the stage and its associated lighting, props, 27-foot video screen and sound system, said Sgt. Chad Zeller, technical director.
"Everything is about grit, determination and heart," he said. The performers have to unload two semi-trailers worth of equipment, set it up, put on a 90-minute show, sometimes two, and then break down all the gear and load it back in the semis. And, throw in about a dozen quick costume changes for each performance. "It truly takes the heart of a Soldier to do this job."
During their worldwide travels, the entertainers never pass up the opportunity to take in the local sites. After a recent performance at Fort Bliss, Texas, the performers toured the White Sands National Monument and Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, Rodriguez said.
In its current format, the Soldier Show is in its 29th year, DeLucca said. But the idea of Soldiers entertaining Soldiers goes back 237 years to the Continental Army.
Soldiers would entertain each other with songs, music and storytelling around bivouac campfires, DeLucca said.
This is the first season the Soldier Show is operating out of its new home at Fort Sam Houston, instead of Fort Belvoir, Va. The show will perform about 75 times this season, DeLucca said. There is still about one month left in the season.
Delucca characterized this year's troupe as "a joy to work with."
"I've never worked with such a wonderful, motivated, tight-knit group of people who really have a heart for the mission and getting the job done," he said.