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Tops in Blue member makes Tucson show a memorable homecoming

  • Published
  • By Capt. Gabe Johnson
  • 162nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Tops in Blue, the Air Force's premier entertainment group, performed here June 4 at the Tucson Convention Center. Among the 30 performers from around the country, an Arizona Air Guardsman took center stage to sing for her hometown crowd.

Tech. Sgt. Chandra Smith, a full-time member of the 162nd Fighter Wing's F-16 Alert Detachment located at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, heard the cheers of family and friends during the group's sixth performance of the 2008 season.

"I feel great!" said Sergeant Smith after the show. "I was a bit nervous for this performance because I wanted it to be perfect for the people from my church, my unit and all of the friends that came out to see us.

"Our mission is to enhance the morale of servicemembers, and to strengthen ties between military bases and their surrounding communities, so it was really exciting for me to do that for my community here in Tucson," she said.

Those in attendance saw a 2-hour program covering several styles of music. The 2008 Tops in Blue theme, Déjà Blue, compiled performances from past seasons and included music from movies, pop, country, Latin and patriotic genres.

Smith had two solo performances during the evening. She sang Sugarland's country hit "Something More," and Gloria Estefan's "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You."

"I can't put into words how proud I am of her," said Adam Smith, Sergeant Smith's husband, after watching her perform. "She has a true gift, and for her to be able to share it in this way is the best thing that could ever happen for her.

"She's been singing in talent competitions in Tucson for years and she sings the National Anthem and other patriotic songs at Tucson's Air National Guard base during ceremonies," said Sergeant Smith's husband. "I've always known that she has an amazing voice."

Sergeant Smith also performed during several group numbers consisting of 12 costume changes over the course of the show. "Some changes take only a minute," she said. "These days I can put on my mess dress in 1 minute 20 seconds."

According to Smith, the performance is only one aspect of Tops in Blue that's a matter of military precision. Since reporting to Tops in Blue headquarters at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in March, every minute of Smith's training and preparation has been planned, and each member of the team is challenged to fill several roles as Tops in Blue members.

The Airmen are divided into four distinct flights: personnel, operations, logistics and technical.

"We're a self contained unit," said Smith. "I'm the personnel flight chief and I'm responsible for seven people. We all have additional duties that range from promotions, to protocol, to technical crew," said the sergeant who doubles as a member of the lighting crew.

The typical routine for the team consists of six hours to set up the stage, a rehearsal, the performance, and four hours to pack the stage and move on to the next venue.

It's a ritual they will perform in 30 countries at 150 shows until the season concludes in March 2009.

In addition to touring the United States, Europe and Asia, Tops in Blue will spend three weeks in Southwest Asia performing for deployed troops.

"I'm looking forward to going to the desert. I heard the crowds get really excited," said Smith.

Before hitting the road for the next show, the team of goodwill ambassadors made a stop at Sergeant Smith's unit at Davis-Monthan to present the commander with a plaque in appreciation of their support. They also sang a few songs for Smith's co-workers. It's a courtesy the team extends to each member's home unit.

"We are very proud of Chandra," said Lt. Col. Moon Milham, 162nd Fighter Wing Alert Detachment commander. "Talent aside, she's an excellent example of today's Airmen and she represents the United States, the Air National Guard and our unit as a true professional."

At her detachment, Sergeant Smith is a personnel specialist and an information manager maintaining computers, accomplishing administrative work, processing orders, keeping records and managing several additional duties.

"She is certainly missed around here," said Lt. Col. Milham, "but after watching her perform with Tops in Blue it's easy to see that she's right where she belongs."

For more information about Tops in Blue, visit