KANDAHAR, AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Task Force Falcon, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade gathered the talents of Kandahar Airfield to display their singing, musical, comedic and dancing abilities. The CAB hosted the event near the unit’s headquarters July 5 to have a little fun while observing Independence Day. Looking closer at the talents, one could see the hidden message a few soldiers had to offer.
Army 1st Sgt. Paul Julien and Sgt. 1st Class Shawanda Byers, both first sergeants assigned to Task Force Lighthorse, 3rd CAB, decided to hold the event for the soldiers and personnel around KAF to showcase their talents. Both first sergeants were excited about the great turnout and talent variety.
Byers said the intent behind hosting the talent show was to lift morale, celebrate Independence Day and bring the task forces together.
Julien, known as “Silky J” for the event, was the master of ceremonies and said that in addition to the celebrating the holiday, it was also a chance for the performers to give back to peers and friends. Julien kept the audience laughing between acts with his interviews and quick witted commentary.
“We realize what it means to be out here away from your loved ones, your Family members and your friends,” said Julien. “We tried to time it around the 4th of July so soldiers can come out and enjoy one another.”
Army Pfc. Paul Ieti, assigned to Task Force Workhorse, 3rd CAB, is a talented singer and recent internet sensation from a YouTube video posting: http://www.youtube.com/watch ?v= 1FNNdkdD7AM. Ieti and Sgt. Jonathan Richie, another 3rd CAB soldier from Task Force Knighthawk, sang a duet dedicated to the problems soldiers face that lead to suicidal thoughts. Both soldiers met at the show’s audition and said it was important to collaborate on a song that has a positive message on deployment issues to help others.
Richie, on stage before the performance, said it is important to recognize the precursors for suicide to prevent an attempt.
Army Capt. Patrick Johns, trial counsel for the CAB’s brigade judge advocate, was filling a judge’s role in a different capacity at the show. Johns said the level of musical talent displayed by the contestants exceeded his expectations and as a judge it was almost impossible to pick a favorite.
"The winners of the competition could certainly pursue careers in music if they wanted, so it's even more impressive that they chose to be soldiers," said Johns.
Spc. Hilary Knutson, a South Carolina National Guardsman from Pickens, S.C., assigned to Company B, 198th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, had a message in a song written by her about overcoming obstacles. The lyrics to her song “Mountains” say, "warning to my obstacles: better beware. I'm gonna make it through this, these metaphoric fences. Gonna be relentless 'cause I can move mountains."
Knutson says the song reminds her that she doesn't have to let anyone bring her down—she is stronger than that.
“The goal is for the song to be an uplifting one, triumphant even. No one should ever let people’s discouragement dictate how hard they go for something,” said Knutson. “It's only a barrier if you let it be. Whatever it is that's holding you back, it's not worth it.”
At the end of the night, and after the votes tallied, the winner was Spc. Janelle Edwards, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, Task Force Lighthorse, who inspired the crowd singing a song by Beyonce titled “Listen.”
Most attendees would say that there was more than one winner. From the audience members, judges and performers, everyone won by showing up for the larger talents displayed by the flight line in a place far away, with a little slice of home for the holiday.