Determination takes talent to Texas Published Feb. 20, 2009 By Patti Jeffrey 62nd Force Support Squadron MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Tech. Sgt. Katie Badowski is on a mission. It's her determination -- and her talent -- that brought this Air Force Reservist back to Lackland AFB, Texas for the third time in January. Jan. 16-18, she competed at the Air Force's 2009 Worldwide Talent Contest where she sang as a hopeful for a spot in Tops in Blue. Sergeant Badowski is assigned to the 446th Services Flight. "Competing in this talent contest is nothing like American Idol," Sergeant Badowski said. "To succeed, you need to believe in the mission -- as a team, being there for others, trying to bring them a piece of home. It's not about you; it's about everyone on your team and who you're really there for. It's about giving back to the community. The experience changes your focus." The experience also improves her skills each time she is selected to go. This year, after she received a permissive TDY from her deployed assignment at Dover AFB, Del., a surprise awaited. "You always go through an intensive interview where they ask all the questions," Sergeant Badowski said. "I was surprised to find that this time around, they just asked me to tell them all about myself. So I was talking the whole time. Of course, they already knew me from previous tryouts, so they had all that paperwork." It's not uncommon to see returning hopefuls, according to the Tops In Blue Web site, which states that the event brings them back year after year, each time improving their skills from the competition process. That's where Sergeant Badowski's determination sets in. She didn't make the cast for the 2009 Tops in Blue, but that didn't dampen her spirit. She says that even if you don't win a Roger or Wilco award (first and second place), it doesn't mean they're not interested in you. "Everyone's application is entered into a talent pool," she said. "Not everyone can win the top two spots -- there are too many competitors for that. Some give up and don't try to come back. But every time I go down to Texas, I learn more about what I need to do to improve -- it's a huge learning opportunity. I plan to compete again next year. They'll have to take me some time!" Sergeant Badowski is confident in the preparation process. She says that every competitor, new and returning, is placed in a group when they arrive. A team of coordinators is assigned to each group. "Everyone meets the band, who will play for each competitor while they're on stage," she said. "And they won't let anyone get on stage without being prepared." What types of skills do you need in order to be considered for performing at the Worldwide Talent Contest? Sergeant Badowski advises newcomers to "look at what you're thinking of doing for competition, and then translate it into performing in front of thousands of people." Here are her other tips, gleaned from three rounds of competition: · Round out your experience to improve in all areas of performing. Take dance classes, fitness classes, coordination exercises, instrumental and voice coaching. · Get out there and get used to performing. Volunteer for community playhouses, church choirs, town choruses -- as much as you can do on stage. · The more experiences you have of different kinds, the better it looks on your application and your tryout video. · Once you submit your application package, it's a waiting game. However, be prepared to move fast once you're called. Plan ahead. Don't make plans you can't change. Get your finances in order. Be flexible with your class schedule if you're in school. Have both Plan A and Plan B in place. · If you aren't selected this time around, don't sit around. Strive to continually improve and apply again next year. Her last piece of advice is to focus on what's important. She says that the focus isn't on being a star, but rather about being ambassadors of goodwill to the community. "I notice they (the team coordinators) always have a good military bearing; they're also watching your behavior not only when you perform, but the entire time you're there," she said. "After the contest is over, every team goes into the community to perform. My team performed at the BX; another team visited the hospital." To learn more about the Worldwide Talent Contest and Tops in Blue, visit their new Web site at www.topsinblue.com. Reserve and Guard Airmen selected for the cast are put on active duty for the touring season, so don't be misled by the Web site's declaration that Tops In Blue is an all active-duty U.S. Air Force special unit. The new site gives you an easy way to fill out and submit your talent application, upload your audition video and receive confirmation that your application is in the system.