Air power reigned and the Army was AWOL at the 2016 "Presidio has Mad Talent" singing competition final.
Shayden Olson won the $500 first prize and T.J. Rosage was second, picking up $250. Both are airmen first class in the 311th Training Squadron studying Hebrew.
In third, earning $125 for his effort, was Lance Cpl. Jacob Schouten, an Arabic student in the U.S. Marine Corps Detachment.
No Soldiers were among the seven finalists on Sept. 23 at Hobson Recreation Center. Pfc. Jeremy Brown was the other Marine. Seamen apprentice Audrey Norstrom and Joe Sacchitella represented the Information Warfare Training Command and Airman 1st Class Deonte Harry rounded out the group.
The win for Olson was a long road back after suffering a panic attack onstage at the second round of competition Sept. 16.
"I got up on stage, and I honestly don't know what came over me … it was like this tension gripped all over my body and just held me rigid," he said about that night. "I knew the words I needed to sing, but they just didn't come out. I quickly asked to leave the stage and when I got back to the green room, all I could think of was how badly I'd screwed up."
Helping Olson conquer the episode was the camaraderie of his fellow contestants.
"I never would have been able to get back out there without their support … they calmed me down, and consoled me with their experiences with anxiety on stage," he said. "Without them I never would have continued the competition."
Like the television singing competition programs, "Presidio has Mad Talent" was judged by three people with musical backgrounds.
Now a Chinese Mandarin student in Co. D, 229th Military Intelligence Battalion, Spc. Tiffany Shomsky earned a bachelor's degree in music and taught instrument performance before enlisting. She agreed on Rosage and Olson as the top performers but had them reversed.
"In my opinion, Olson won because he had the vocal performance of his life; far better than I previously thought he could do, based on the previous two weeks, in addition to clearly outclassing everyone else in his showmanship and stage presence," Shomsky said.
The three judges accounted for 85 percent of the winner's totals. Crowd voting was 15 percent. Other judges were Richard Eels, an employee of Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center and a singer/song writer, and Arabic student Spc. Daniella Robichaud of Co. A, 229th MI Bn., who played flute from third grade through college.
"In my opinion, Rosage had the best voice of the group, which is why I put him first. In fact, he and Olson were tied on my score sheet after the first song -- Rosage for his voice, Olson for his showmanship," Shomsky said.
Making the final round meant going big for Rosage. He sang Aerosmith's "Dream On" as his finale, hitting the high notes in the last chorus and visibly impressing judges and the raucous crowd.
"When I found out that I was going to be in the final round, I knew I would have to challenge myself," he said. "That song comes with crazy high notes and it was definitely a risk that I wanted to take."
Both Olson and Rosage emphasized the overall enjoyment of the competition, both insisting that winning wasn't the reason they were on stage.
"I was okay with not winning … I was competing in the finals with six other incredible singers who all deserved to win, and we were definitely all supportive of each other," Rosage said. "I was in it for fun, and I think everybody else was, too."
"We were all very close and very willing to help each other out. I think we all saw it as more fun than competition," Olson said. "We were all very friendly, and I would love to do something like this again with all those fine people."
The two young men aimed high and hit the target, with Olson finishing less than five percent above Rosage in the final tally. Ballots and interviews showed that Olson's stage presence and flair probably clinched first for him.
"Seeing our first place winner gave me great joy because from the first week of him being super nervous, to the last performance looking super comfortable and blowing me away with not only a great performance but also a great show," Robichaud said of Olson.
Shomsky couldn't disagree, saying "I can see why the other judges and the audience could put Olson ahead of Rosage, especially on this particular night."