By Mr. Tim Hipps (FMWRC)February 9, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. - (Feb. 9, 2010) -- Four former Soldiers attribute their Army experiences and training as the driving force behind 4TROOPS, a vocal group recording its self-titled debut album in New York City.
Then Capt. Meredith Melcher and Sgt. David Clemo, now both civilians, performed in the 2004 U.S. Army Soldier Show, an "entertainment for the Soldier, by the Soldier" song-and-dance extravaganza that tours the world annually.
Retired Staff Sgt. Ron Henry was one of five finalists in the inaugural Military Idol competition of 2005. The Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command singing contest, based on the premises of American Idol, since has been renamed Operation Rising Star.
Former Sgt. Daniel Jens, a top-20 finalist in the third season of "America's Got Talent," completes the singing quartet.
Army Entertainment Division programs are based at Fort Belvoir, Va., where these veterans say they received training needed to perform on the next level. They also attribute Soldiering through deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan as common-bond tools that helped prep them for the adversities of touring and recording.
"We sing together like we're Family. We act like we're Family. It's in line with the Army motto: We take care of our own," Henry explained. "That's what we've been doing together since we came together. We take care of one another. We encourage one another. We give constructive criticism to one another - all to help bring out the best.
"It's not an individual thing. We're all taking care of one another because that's what we want to show the world - and all of the armed forces - that we can come together and have camaraderie and unity and create a wheel that will impress not just the Army, but will touch all organizations in the military."
4Troops was introduced to the world Jan. 26 on "Good Morning America." ABC News' Bob Woodruff, who was severely wounded in Iraq and has promised lifelong support of the U.S. military that came to his rescue, learned while filming the segment that Melcher helped set up the field hospital that saved his life.
The group also appeared Feb. 5-6 on "Fox & Friends" cable television morning show.
The 4TROOPS album, available May 25, has already climbed to No. 4 on Amazon.com's pre-order list. The projected hit single, "For Freedom," will be released in March.
U.S. Army Soldier Show Production Director Victor Hurtado brought his protAfAgAfAs together to assemble 4TROOPS and will serve as associate producer for the album.
"These four troops are not only a testament to the wealth of programs provided by Army MWR, but they also reflect the skills of those professionals who have developed them both as military leaders and as artistic professionals," said Hurtado, a former Soldier Show performer now working his 25th year in the Army entertainment business.
Producer Frank Filipetti, a Grammy Award winner for best engineered album and best pop album, has produced and engineered music for Barbra Streisand, James Taylor, George Michael, KISS, Foreigner and Survivor, among others.
4TROOPS' goal is to sing on behalf of everyone affiliated with the military to honor their sacrifices and help raise awareness of their needs, according to the artists.
"We've all gone through the hardship of being deployed and being away from loved ones," Melcher said. "To have that perspective really helps because the songs that we're performing and the messages and the music all relate to those types of experiences - whether you got deployed or maybe you were deployed and now you're back at home in support of others.
"The fact that we've all been through that just makes it that much more authentic. It makes what we're singing that much more believable."
Melcher is the daughter of Lt. Gen. David Melcher, who retired in 2008 from the Pentagon. She served as a platoon leader on the front lines in Iraq during ambulance evacuations of hundreds of wounded Americans and Iraqis. She also did a six-month tour of entertaining troops.
"Being in the Soldier Show helped me take on my own voice, and find any flaws or strengths that I had, and taught me how to hone those," said Melcher, 29. "I've been honing them ever since the 2004 show, so that's definitely helped me with recording.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that the Soldier Show, let alone my time in the Army, would ever lead to something like this, which is a very welcome opportunity."
Clemo, 30, provided communications and logistics support in Afghanistan for the 18th Airborne Corps. He also served as assistant director for the U.S. Army Soldier Show from 2006 through 2008. He credits those experiences for helping him calmly handle the logistical difficulties of New York minute-paced productions.
"When I performed in and directed the Soldier Show, the pace I had to work in definitely prepared me for the pace we must work in here," Clemo said. "Being deployed and being a Soldier, you're used to being in a high-stressed environment, living on deadlines and having people tell you what to do - and you follow their directions. For us, being Soldiers just makes it easier to adapt."
A live tour of military installations is in the works. But for now, the former Soldiers are hunkered down in a New York recording studio.
"If you would have told me where I'd be now last year at this time, I would have told you that you needed to go see a psychiatrist," said Henry, 41, a 20-year Army veteran who served as a transport manager in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division. "Never would I have dreamed this door would have opened the way it did. I am still pinching myself, but I am so very humbled to be in this position.
"It still hasn't set in yet whether it's a dream or a nightmare, but it's still here every day when I wake up," Henry said. "The most important thing in my life is I want to stay humble and grateful for where I am, and the Army and Army Entertainment Division had a whole bunch to do with that."
"This is a one-in-a-million experience," added Melcher, whose last duty station was Fort Meade, Md. "It is so cool to be working with people who have really done stuff in the music industry."
Melcher also sang the Army's praises for having an entertainment division.
"I would like to say 'thank you' for giving Soldiers these types of opportunities, like the Soldier Show and Operation Rising Star," she said. "There are so many Soldiers out there who have these talents and think that they can't use them or bring them forth and let their unit see what they can do.
"To just say 'thank you' really is probably not even enough, because I'm really grateful for being in the Soldier Show and so thankful for that opportunity. Without opportunities like that, future opportunities, and even greater opportunities may not even exist. So 'thank you' for even having these types of programs in existence, period."