WEST FORT HOOD, Texas -- A Fort Hood senior enlisted leader will play "Mother Ginger" in the 55th annual performance of Ballet Austin's "The Nutcracker" Dec, 17 at 2 p.m. at the Long Performing Arts Center.

Command Sgt. Major Mario O. Terenas of the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, will help celebrate Texas' longest running production of its kind.

"The character of Mother Ginger has a big skirt, big hair, and an even bigger personality, and we're confident CSM Terenas will be an audience favorite!" said Ballet Austin Executive Director Cookie Ruiz.

"We are delighted to have Command Sgt. Major Terenas join our prestigious ranks of VIP Mother Gingers in this season's production of 'The Nutcracker.'"

A career Infantryman, Terenas has served in a variety of Airborne, Stryker and Light Infantry units around the world for almost 27 years.

He also attended Austin Independent School District's McCallum High School his junior year in 1985.

Terenas will trade in his Army shoulder tabs, qualification badges, and medals -- which include a Ranger tab, Air Assault wings, and Airborne wings -- for a frilly skirt, wonderful eye makeup, and curly locks of hair during his "Mother Ginger" performance.

He has deployed to Iraq in Support of Operation Iraqi Freedom twice and once to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

"Honestly, I can't say I'm a connoisseur of 'The Nutcracker,'" Terenas said. "But I know that I stand on some stilts on some platform and I get dressed up as Mother Ginger, and get to put on a lot of makeup, which my daughters are extremely excited about seeing. It's a small part, I think."

In fact, for three minutes, the 5-foot, 9-inch, 185-pound warrior Terenas will be the comedy highlight of the ballet.

He will be seated upon a tall platform that looks like an over-the-top giant hoop skirt costume, gesturing enthusiastically as "Bon Bons" (small children) pour out of his giant skirt, while dancing about and disappearing back under the skirt.

"I live with a wife, two daughters, and two dogs -- I finally got a boy dog -- but I've been surrounded by girls the last 20 years of my life," Terenas said with a laugh. "I think it will be really good. It shows the human side of me -- you know, the Billy Badass Infantryman -- who can also turn around and put on some makeup. It's not a bad thing. That's OK with me."

He also said he wants to perform because civilian audiences like those in Austin give Soldiers their support all the time.

"Soldiers have a human component," he said. "We're fathers, we're brothers, we're husbands, we have daughters, and we have wives.

"The only reason we're able to do what we do as Soldiers and be the greatest Army on God's green Earth is because of their support."

Based on a version of the 200-year-old story by E.T.A. Hoffmann, the ballet follows Clara's wintry adventures, from her battle with rowdy rodents to her triumphs at the Court of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

The performance is filled with enchanting sets and costumes, animated choreography, and a cast of hundreds, including Ballet Austin's professional company of dancers and the accomplished students of the Ballet Austin Academy.

Run time for the ballet is approximately two hours with one 20-minute intermission between Act I and Act II.

The show also features the live accompaniment of the Austin Symphony Orchestra.

Russian composer Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky, who scored the ballet, saved his most magical music for the "Mother Ginger" sequence.

First performed in San Francisco during 1944, the timeless ballet is staged in countless American cities every year, particularly around Christmas.

Beginning in 2004, former Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli's wife, Beth, was the first Fort Hood VIP to play the part while Chiarelli was the 1st Cavalry Division commander.

Since 2005, various USAOTC leaders, to include commanding generals, Command Sergeants Major, and Chiefs of Staff have participated in the sold-out performances.

Terenas became USAOTC's Command Sergeant Major Aug. 4, after serving as Commandant for Eighth U.S. Army's Wightman NCO Academy, Camp Jackson, South Korea.

The Nutcracker performance schedule runs from Friday, Dec. 8 through Saturday Dec. 23.

Ballet Austin is located at the Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive, Austin 78704.

Those interested in tickets to any of the shows can call Audience Services at (512) 476-2163), and there is a 20 percent military discount (retirees included). Tickets can be purchased over the phone or in person. Normal ticket prices are from $44.00 to $99.00, depending on seating arrangement chosen. Check the website for available tickets.

For more information on "The Nutcracker" and "Mother Ginger," go to https://balletaustin.org.

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As the Army's only independent operational tester, USAOTC tests and assesses Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. USAOTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer -- the American Soldier.