By Zach Morgan, Fort Polk Guardian staff writerFebruary 13, 2009
Airman 1st Class Joanell Jacques, Detachment 1, 20th Air Support Operations Squadron, is taking the assignment of her life. After participating in Military Idol at Fort Polk, she submitted her audition tape to Tops in Blue, the Air Force equivalent of the Army Soldier Show. The tour lasts one year, and performs at U.S. military installations worldwide. After auditioning at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, this year, Jacques was selected to join the group.
"My sergeant suggested that I try out for Tops in Blue," said Jacques. "I sent in my video and was selected out of several hundred applicants to come in for auditions."
The competition at Lackland was stiff, Jacques said. "There were more than 20 females trying out for six vocalist slots. We put in 18-hour days doing vocal auditions and interviews. It was hard, I was up against people who could play instruments and sing, and I don't play any instruments. There was a lot of talent." The audition was a positive experience, too. "It was organized and professional," Jacques said. "It wasn't just a bunch of people thinking they were better than everyone else. We were all on an equal playing field."
The hard work paid off. "At the end of the audition they called my commander and asked him if I could join," Jaques said.
Maj. Chris Mallory, detachment commander, was more than willing to allow Jacques to join Tops in Blue. "She's a first-rate young Airman," he said. "She's fairly new to the Air Force, so she doesn't get a lot of opportunity for leadership, but she learned her job quickly. She did well with her tasks here, and that's why I feel good about sending her to Tops in Blue. She's an ambassador for the Air Force. If she weren't going to be a good ambassador, I wouldn't send her.
"In a unit our size, one person means a lot, but how could you not let someone do this' I've been in the Air Force 21 years, and this is the first person I've known who was in Tops in Blue. I think it's a good thing for her career."
First Sgt. Stephen Willis, Detachment 1st sergeant, confirmed that Tops in Blue is a prestigious opportunity. "I'm impressed, it's hard to get in," he said. "The performers are talented -- they're not just a bunch of jokers fumbling around up there. A lot of them could have professional recording careers."
Jacques is no rookie when it comes to singing. "I've been singing since I was three," she said, adding that she also sings at church.
Tops in Blue is not the only major event in Jacques' life this year -- she is marrying a Fort Polk Soldier this month. "I thank God," she said, "because my fiancAfA supports me."
Jacques heads back to Lackland to begin staging for the show March 21.
According to Mallory, Tops in Blue is a valuable morale asset for deployed troops. "If they're playing music that's not my style, would I go see the show at home' Maybe not, but if I'm deployed, anything that is a break is a morale boost," he said.
The ASOS has gotten a morale boost of its own. "It's good for our guys here to see that an Airman can get something good out of being in this small unit," Mallory said. As an added bonus, Tops in Blue always visits the home station of each member. "Sometime this year, Tops in Blue will come to Fort Polk," Mallory said.