ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Army News Service, Nov. 19, 2007) - A dozen Soldiers sang their way into the semifinals of the 2007 Operation Rising Star contest. You can help select the final six.

Online voting at through Nov. 26 will determine six finalists who will vie for honors as the inaugural Operation Rising Star.

Thirty-five installations participated in the singing contest based on the premises of FOX television's American Idol. Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities played host to local competitions in September and October.

The competition was open to active-duty, National Guard and Reserve personnel from all branches of the U.S. military. Contestants performed a cappella before a panel of three judges before working their audience. The judges and audience each determined 50 percent of the contestants' final scores.

Spc. Richard Sianoya, a native of Manila, Philippines, stationed at Fort Irwin, Calif., is no stranger to this type of competition. He competed two years ago in the inaugural Military Idol program, which was renamed Operation Rising Star. He also was a cast member of the 2006 U.S. Army Soldier Show.

All 12 semifinalists have strong music backgrounds.

Semifinalist Spc. Joel Tahimik, also from Manila, relied on his church choir experience to represent Fort Hood, Texas. Spc. Nova Robinson, a native of Abilene, Texas, won the local competition at Fort Carson, Colo., with her rendition of Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing."

"Music is the single thing that has remained constant in my teen and adult years,"
Spc. Robinson said. "I love performing and sharing my talent."

Pfc. Michael Johnson of Milwaukee got a tent full of Soldiers jumping at Forward Operating Base Hammer, Iraq.

"I came to entertain," Pfc. Johnson said.

Sgt. Richard Scarlett of Baumholder, Germany, takes his music very seriously.

"I've spent most of my life aspiring to become a major recording artist," Sgt. Scarlett said. "I love to sing more than anything."

Sgt. Clarence Reeves II, a native of Clarksville, Tenn., who is stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany, believes "music expresses the deepest feelings of life."

Second Lt. Jacqueline Evans of U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud, South Korea, hails from Monroe, N.C., where she developed her passion for singing gospel, R&B, soul and playing the piano.

Pfc. Lawrence Lee of U.S. Army Garrison Daegu, Korea; Master Sgt. Kevin Crawford of Camp Victory, Iraq; Sgt. 1st Class Dendre Wright of Fort Bliss, Texas; Spc. Dwayne Villanueva of Fort Wainwright, Alaska; and Sgt. Nicolas Gooch of Fort Lewis, Wash., all expressed similar comments on the Operation Rising Star Web site. They complete the list of semifinalists.

The online voting window for the six finalists will be open Nov. 27 through Dec. 3. Voters may tally only one vote per day for any or each of the 12 semifinalists.

The winner of the inaugural Operation Rising Star contest, to be announced Dec. 7, will receive $2,000, with $1,000 and $500 going to the runner-up and third-place finisher.

(Tim Hipps writes for FMWRC Public Affairs)