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Tops in Blue performs for deployed Airmen
SOUTHWEST ASIA - Members of the Air Force entertainment group Tops in Blue perform at the Chapman Activity Center Pavilion Dec. 21, 2011. While here, the troupe performed three shows for 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Airmen, including one in the middle of the night at the aerospace ground equipment hangar near the flightline. After their final performance, Tops in Blue takes its show on the road to several other installations in Southwest Asia. During the year, Tops in Blue performs about 150 shows, with 25 to 30 of them at deployed locations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)
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Tops in Blue performs for deployed Airmen

Posted 12/21/2011   Updated 12/28/2011 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski
380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

12/21/2011 - SOUTHWEST ASIA  -- Airmen at the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing have a response for anyone who thinks the Air Force entertainment group Tops in Blue is a waste of money:

"Just come see one of their shows!"

"The biggest fight we have out here is keeping morale up, so as a supervisor, it means a lot for anyone who is willing to come out here, especially for those of us on the flight line," said Master Sgt. Kiera Daniels, the aerospace ground equipment flight chief here.

Tops in Blue kicked off their tour through Southwest Asia performing three shows for 380th AEW Airmen, including an acoustic set in the aerospace ground equipment hangar at 3:30 a.m.

"This is normally the crew that gets forgotten when we have entertainment groups come through, so this really meant a lot to us," said Daniels, a Matheny, W.V., native deployed from Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.

After their final performance here, Tops in Blue takes its show on the road to several other installations in Southwest Asia. During the year, Tops in Blue performs about 150 shows, with 25 to 30 of them at deployed locations, according to Edward Jones, the performance director.

"There are a lot of misconceptions about Tops in Blue, but I think that's because people don't understand everything about us," Jones explained. "We use non-appropriated funds and sponsorship dollars to execute our mission, so there's not a lot of drain on taxpayers. Also, people talk about cutting morale-building programs, right up until they need it. And some of the people who need it most are deployed Airmen."

"And that's why we're out here," he added.

Another misconception, Jones said, is that "all they do is sing and dance for their career."

In reality, Tops in Blue performers are released by their work center commander for the duration of the yearlong season. After which, "they return to their job as better Airmen," Jones said.

One of his most junior members agreed.

"I've learned a lot about communication skills and personal interaction," said Airman 1st Class Aimee Grills, an engineering apprentice from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. "For us, it's a great opportunity to visit with Airmen all over the world and hopefully raise their spirits. I've also learned a lot about the Air Force from the rest of the people on the team."

According to Jones, who has been associated with Tops in Blue for 20 years, "they're Airmen just like everyone else. They just happen to have a talent they like to share."

And for several Airmen, like Lakewood, Wash., native Staff Sgt. Kelly Shields, they were certainly grateful for that.

"Everyone here had a great time," said Shields, a fuel system repair specialist deployed from Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. "I'd never seen them before, so I was pretty excited. It was nice of them to come out here so early in the morning. It shows they really care about us."

Senior Airman Emily Messano, a radar systems technician, also from Tinker, missed their show because of her deployment date.

"I was looking forward to seeing them before I left, but it didn't work out," the Douglas, Ga., native said. "We appreciate them coming by. Any change in the routine here helps us get through the long hours we put in."

Entertainment groups like Tops in Blue are especially important for junior Airmen, according to Tech. Sgt. Matthew Barry, a security forces specialist deployed from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

"It means a lot to some of the younger folks who are on their first deployment," said the Lincoln, Mont., native, who is on his fourth deployment. "(Tops in Blue) definitely serves its purpose and raises morale for folks. It's good to have some support from home like this. I've seen them before and I enjoy it every time."

The show was nothing new for 1st Lt. Loren Hulen. The sustainment services flight commander has seen them, "every year since I was about four." But that didn't keep the Air Force brat and Germantown, Md., native from enjoying this year's program, "Rhythm Nation."

"Tops in Blue gives people a chance to get away from work and relax for a little bit," said Hulen, who is deployed from Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England. "I always love seeing their show, but being in the Services career field, we know we're doing our job when we look out and see other people cheering and clapping and having a good time. That's what's most important."

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