FORT STEWART, Ga. - Dreams came true for 10 Operation Rising Star semi-finalists, Sept. 13, in front of an excited crowd at Fort Stewart's Rocky's Zone. After two weeks of competition, participants displayed their singing talents in hopes of advancing to the final round.

"Each year we get some really great competitors," lamented Marline Parker, facility manager for Rocky's Zone. "Each week the competition changes based on their performance and the songs they choose to sing."

Similar to American Idol, three judges from the Third Infantry Division band along with a high-spirited crowd, determined the finalist who will move onto the closing round.

"It feels good to be singing with a bunch of talented people who are not afraid to share their talents," said performer Sgt. Lee Lawrence with 3rd Sustainment Brigade. "This is a gift and if you don't share your gift you lose it. I like singing and making people happy."

Operation Rising Star began Aug. 30 with 25 contestants, said Parker. The winner's final score is made up of two parts. The judge's selection accounts for 50 percent of the total score and crowd participation makes up the other half. Next week, audience members can cast their vote at the event or on the Third ID facebook page.

Contestants select and perform their musical selections each week and anxiously await their turn to get to carry out their gifts.

Musical selections were played by volunteer dee jay and graphic art designer Jose Camacho of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.

Family Readiness Groups also have a chance to win a spirit award based on their participation. Each week, the host gives a shout-out to present FRG groups for them to scream and cheer as loud as they can. During the final round, an FRG group will be selected to win a $300 cash prize to use towards their FRG related activities.

Audience participation makes the competition both entertaining and spirited. Performer Sgt. David Anderson with the Georgia Army National Guard said "I love the audience participation and I can understand why people sing their entire life and not make a dime in some cases. "The fans and the connection are unbelievable.

"It feels like a roller coaster ride," said Bria Carruthers, the youngest competitor. "I enjoy being on stage despite being nervous."

Unlike some competitions, rivalry plays no part in Operation Rising Star. Contestants speak highly of the process overall and respond in a conciliatory fashion about each other.

"We have a good mixture of 10 competitors that are friendly and supportive of each which is important, Parker expressed.

"This is a really tough competition because everyone is so good," said contestant and Family Member Ariana Rathburn. "The experience has been fun and I've met lots of cool people.

"I watched the competition last year and decided to try it," said challenger and Family Member Kellie Dudley. I've met some great people throughout the entire process. Singing just brings people together. A song can mean the world to so many people including those you have not met."

Operation Rising Star gives Soldiers and Family Members an opportunity to build morale and have fun in the process which is a command philosophy of 3rd ID's Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Robert "Abe" Abrams. Major General Abrams strongly supports Marne community members to enjoy what they are doing and have fun in the process.

This contest is important to our community because it builds confidence in someone with a special talent," said Shannon Williams, Family and Morale, Welfare Recreation Specialist. "Everything is not just work, work, work. Operation Rising Star gives Soldiers and their Families an opportunity to come out and have fun. Fort Stewart is more than just Army, its life."

Operation Rising Star will be televised live on Marne TV next week; go to the Third ID facebook page to vote for your favorite singer. The following five contestants will advance to the final round slated for Sept. 20 at Rocky's Zone:

Latonya Pruit, Family Member
Sgt. Lee Lawrence, 6/32nd Maint.
Staff Sgt. Lartee Meadows, 24th Financial Mgmt.
Kellie Dudley, Family Member
Bria Caruthers, Family Member