By Sgt. Robert Yde, 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public AffairsSeptember 28, 2007
FORWARD OPERATING BASE PROSPERITY, Iraq - Although he was the second of three finalists to perform, once Pfc. Daniel Jens finished his performance of Edwin McCain's, "I'll Be," the winner of the first Black Jack Idol had all but been officially named.
Jens' soulful rendition of the '90s rock ballad stole the show and capped off the nearly two-month long competition during which, performers, either assigned or attached to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, sang weekly at the Black Jack Bistro Dining Facility in a competition fashioned after "American Idol."
"The best man won -- he really did," second runner-up, Staff Sgt. Marcia Scott, a Demopolis, Ala. native with 15th Brigade Support Battalion, said. "He did a good job. He's been great the whole competition."
One of the judges and the driving force behind the event, Maj. Michael Duck, the brigade's chief of operations, said that despite the weekly change in genres, Jens, who is with 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, remained the most consistent through the weeks.
"He selected the proper songs for his voice, and I think some of the other contestants had problems with that," Duck, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said
During the six weeks of competition, the 11 contestants who auditioned and were selected to participate, delivered karaoke-type performances on a stage set up in the middle of the DFAC during dinner hours. For the finals, however, which were held Sept. 20, the 1st Cav. Div. Jazz Band provided the music for the competition.
"It was awesome being able to play with the band," Jens, who is originally from Milwaukee, said. "I think the worst part about the karaoke part is I'm used to having a band -- playing with them. So you're up on stage, and you got the band guys to help rile you up and get you excited and everything. And you're up there by yourself, so it was awesome to have the band this time."
Fan favorite Scott, admitted that she had a little trouble adjusting to singing with live music.
"Well it's a lot different," she said. "The background vocals - you're finding yourself having to sing the chorus and the song, and you're trying to catch up and then do the adlibbing in between and that was kind of rough."
With Scott and runner-up, Sgt. Orlandus White's very vocal fan bases on hand every week Jens said that although he thought he was performing well each time, he wasn't expecting to win.
"Actually, the first time I did it, they called my name, and you could hear crickets," he said. "So I was a little intimidated every time they called their names, and they had half the room cheering for them. But every week, when they'd call my name, it started getting louder and louder; so that made me feel good."
For winning the first Black Jack Idol competition, Jens received an MP3 alarm clock radio, a pair of sunglasses with a built-in MP3 player and a $50 AAFES gift certificate. White received a wireless headphone set and a $25 AAFES gift certificate, and Scott received a watch along with a $25 gift certificate.
Duck said that in retrospect, he wasn't sure what exactly to expect going into the competition, but that he was impressed with both the level of talent and the fan participation throughout the event.
"I think everybody got a good taste of what the talent is around here so it was good," he said. "I was looking for fan participation and people to come out, and I think that's what we accomplished."
He also may have unwittingly set a trend as a Black Jack Runway competition is being planned for November.
"I don't know if that's the direction we want to go," he said laughing, "but yeah, I think it's started. It's bringing out other people's creativity and talents and I think it's a morale booster."