FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Sports USA at Fort Bragg resembled more of a set from American Idol, without Simon Cowell, of course, than the Army's largest sports club Thursday evening, nineteen contestants sang a cappella in front of four judges and an audience of about 75 for the chance to represent Fort Bragg and ultimately win a three-day professional recording studio experience in Los Angeles.

Judges Pauline Reimers, Sandy D'Amico, Danny Cowan and Capt. Gloria McNight, Headquarters and Headquarters Company Commander of Fort Bragg Garrison and reception Co., listened and critiqued each singer's vocal style and presentation. The judges determined whether the singer would go on to round one eliminations the next week, according to Scotty Reed, Sports USA manager and emcee for the evening. The contestants would be allowed to have musical accompaniment or play an instrument while they sing.

Only two contestants were turned away as each singer showed the judges their talent and vocal range.

Michelle Mabry got the crowd standing with a rendition of the National Anthem. She dedicated her performance to her husband, Staff Michael Mabry of the 1st Battalion, 321st Field Artillery Regiment, who is deployed to Afghanistan. "He's my support, he's everything to me," she said.

Sgt. Thomas Mulcahy, from Co. D., Warrior Transition Battalion, came dressed for the part in black attire and a black cowboy hat. "I was really nervous but when I started letting it happen, I just went with it," he said. "I didn't know exactly what song I was going to sing - I had like four or five in my head."

Tiffany Wagner Woods was no stranger to this competition - she was a judge last year and decided to try her hand at singing, something she did while competing in the Miss North Carolina pageant in 2008. Her husband, Combat Staff Sgt. Keith Woods, 82nd Aviation Brigade, was in the audience cheering her on.

"I like being on stage and in front of people," said the former Miss Fayetteville 2008. "It's fun for me. I miss being on stage."

Pfc. Felicia Vasquez, a N.C. National Guardsman from Co. F., 230th Brigade Support Bn. in Red Springs, made it just in time to perform before the judges. The Soldier, assigned to Headquarters, 139th Military Academy, had recently auditioned for American Idol in East Rutherford, N.J. "It was exhilarating ... an experience. Over 20,000 people and Ryan Seacrest were there," she said.

Vasquez had auditioned for the show's producers but didn't make the cut. "She said I had an amazing voice, great vocals but I didn't look the part. They were turning away a lot of good singers because they were looking for what looks good on TV."

Vasquez is excited about her chances with Operation Rising Star. "If this works out, forget about American Idol," she said.

For the Aug. 19 round of singing, the audience's vote counts for 50 percent of the total score to send their favorite singers to the next round on Aug. 26.

After the two elimination rounds, the final lineup will perform Sept. 9 at Sports USA.

The most supported unit or Family readiness group will win $300.

The grand prize includes studio time, a vocal coach, production of a three-song demo CD and an all expense paid trip for two. Singers must be active-duty, Reserve, National Guard or military Family members 18 and older.

For more information, call 907-0739.