By Master Sgt. Kimberly Spencer, 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 23, 2006
LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AETCNS) --
When can you dance and sing, make thirty new friends and learn some valuable life lessons, all while you work?
When you're a member of the Tops in Blue, the Air Force's premier entertainment troop, according to Senior Airman Tiffany Vidal.
Airman Vidal recently returned to her duties as a ward clerk in the 759th Surgical Operations Squadron here after spending a year traveling and performing with the Tops in Blue.
"I've always loved to sing. It's one of my hobbies," said Airman Vidal. "When I entered into the military and heard so many great things about the Tops in Blue I was thrilled. Nothing excited me more than the chance to do what I do best in front of thousands of troops."
Airman Vidal first auditioned for the 2004 team. "There is a 10-day audition period for which I was put on permissive temporary duty. Within those 10 days, I practiced my craft (singing), I participated in a dance review and had a personal interview with Tom Edwards, the Tops in Blue director of entertainment."
During the audition, participants perform and are judged on stage presence, poise, voice quality and use of the stage.
Unfortunately, Airman Vidal did not make the cut that year. However, that audition did lead to her recruitment the following year.
"I didn't make it that first year, but I did receive a call back, asking if I wanted to be on the 2005 team."
Being on the team usually requires leaving your family behind. But, fortunately for Airman Vidal, that wasn't the case. In fact, the opposite was true.
"The absolute best part was experiencing Tops in Blue with my husband who was also on the team," she said.
Airman Vidal's husband, Staff Sgt. Timothy Vidal who works at Randolph Air Force Base, was already on tour, so she was able to join him.
She also had the support of her unit here at Wilford Hall Medical Center.
Airman Vidal explained she had a great deal of support from those in her flight. Even though there was a manning shortage in her unit at the time, the flight recognized the opportunity this presented for her and the value of her serving in this role.
"It was a once in a lifetime opportunity," said Airman Vidal. "It was one of the hardest things I have done in my entire life. But, on the other hand, I had the most fun I have ever had!"
The hard part included setting up and tearing down the 58,000 pounds of equipment used for each show. The young Airman also worked as a rigger, ensuring the stage was stable and properly prepared to perform on.
Another challenge was getting to know the other 30 people that were on the team, said Airman Vidal. "We did everything together. Rode the same bus, stayed at the same lodging facility, ate together, everything."
The Airmen kept pace with a rigorous schedule that took them to such places as, Portugal, Honduras, Japan, Hawaii, Alaska, Iraq, France, Italy, Germany and many major US locations, which included the White House and the Mississippi coast following the hurricanes.
"We didn't have very many days off," said Airman Vidal. "Our days ranged from 16 to 24 hours, with only about 17 days off total for the whole year."
While tough, it was also very rewarding, said Airman Vidal.
"It boosted my confidence in myself and taught me how to be more professional. I learned a lot about how to work with others and be more creative. It was definitely a big learning experience!"
One of the last performances Airman Vidal took part in was here at Lackland Air Force Base. While here, she and some of the troop members performed at her unit.
"We are overjoyed she is back and extremely proud of the work she did," said Lt. Col. Chris Thompson, Wilford Hall's Cardiology Flight commander. "The group sang for us in our unit while they were here, and they were excellent! I am sure they boosted the morale of Airmen around the globe."
Airman Vidal advises those interested in becoming part of the Tops in Blue to be sure it is what they want to do.
"It takes a lot of hard, hard work, dedication, patience, sacrifice and discipline. If you don't already have these qualities, you will definitely learn them while on tour," she said.