Local songstresses soar to the top

Monica Mendoza
Kaiserslautern American

***image1******image2***Two Ramstein Airmen are packing their bags and heading out on a year-long tour with the world renowned Tops in Blue performing group.

Senior Airman Jenna Woolfolk and Airman 1st Class Breona Rancher earned slots with the group known as the Air Force’s Expeditionary Entertainers. The women leave at the end of the month for Lackland Air Force Base in Texas where they will rehearse for 45-days before setting out with the 35-member troupe on a worldwide tour.

“This is the best opportunity that I’ve ever been offered and possibly the best opportunity I will ever be offered,” said Airman Woolfolk, ground radio technician in the 616th Air and Space Communications Squadron.

Tops in Blue performers compete for a slot on the team in the Air Force Worldwide Talent Contest, which first started in 1953. The idea of the contest was to find the Air Force’s top performers and let them entertain the troops and their families. Almost immediately the special unit of amateur performers’ popularity soared. Over the past 50 years, Tops in Blue has performed at superbowl halftime shows, been featured on television shows and movies and has performed at more than 100 state fairs.  But their No. 1 mission is to entertain the troops and their families.

The group has entertained troops in Vietnam, Bosnia-Herzegovina and, most recently, Afghanistan.

“You get to sing for people downrange,” Airman Woolfolk said. “That
is awesome.”

Tops in Blue talent contest is highly competitive, attracting more than 100 hopefuls each year. Sixty are asked to Texas for a week-long audition that includes personal interviews, singing, dancing and improvisation. Both Woolfolk and Rancher had been there before, making it to the semi-finalist cut last year.

Airman Rancher said she had to try again this year. She bought a dance instruction DVD, a “Best of Broadway Hits”  compact disc and practiced from March to October perfecting her moves and her confidence.

“I wanted to be a part of something that is history,” said Airman Rancher, an information manager with the 435th Logistics Readiness Squadron.

Airman Rancher sings, dances and is a published poet. Judges described her as having “raw talent,” she said. And her favorite part of the audition was the improvisation.
“It’s like the TV show, “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” The judges want to see if you are willing to give it up,” Rancher said.

Airman Woolfolk also prepared to audition for the Tops in Blue for a second time. She first saw Tops in Blue perform when she was at tech school at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi. For this competition, she sang, “On My Own” from the musical play, Les Miserables.

“It was really intensive,” Airman Woolfolk said. “They look at the whole person. They want to see potential and see that you are right for the group.”