- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Far from the battlefield, U.S. soldiers will face off in a peaceful contest: “Military Idol,” the Army version of “American Idol.”

More than 30 Army bases will take a break from “hup-two-three-four” to present military versions of the talent contest — around the United States, in Belgium, Germany, Japan and South Korea. They will send winners to a grand finale Oct. 17-23 in Fort Gordon, Ga., according to the U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center.

“American Idol” has for three years been a widely imitated Fox television program. Each season, it selects a talented young person as its “idol” of the year.

Like the civilian version, “Military Idol” is a competition among singers; comedians, musicians and dancers need not apply. By Sept. 30, each of the bases will choose a singer for the final competition.

Some smaller bases or those bases that have a large proportion of their soldiers deployed overseas have decided to push back the application dates as late as possible to allow for the maximum number of contestants, said the support center’s Doriann Fengler.

Some bases have as few as three candidates, not enough to organize a competition. Another has 25, she said.

Soldiers deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan are not eligible. “We would have loved to host the competition in Iraq or Afghanistan, but we do not have the infrastructure,” she said.

However, one base will hold the door open for a soldier who called from Iraq, Miss Fengler said. “I don’t know if the soldier got back in time, but the installation was thrilled to be able to accommodate,” she said.

For the first round, performers will sing without musical accompaniment. Candidates making the first cut sing with recorded accompaniment in round two.

On each base, selection will be by a three-judge panel plus an audience ballot. The support center suggests that local organizers include base officers and local celebrities. They also suggest a $500 prize for finalists at the local level and $1,000 for the grand prize winner in October.

The winner will become an ambassador for Army entertainment.

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