For Lauren Rogers, participating in the country’s premier all-active duty Air Force entertainment group is more than a job—it’s a dream come true.
“There’s just something so special about getting together with a group of people who share the same passion for music, but also have the discipline and dedication that military members have as well,” says the 2013 graduate who holds a communication degree with a public relations emphasis from MSU. She also was the university’s Distinguished Military Graduate for Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Detachment 425.
“The staff here at Tops in Blue is all made up of people who were in the Air Force or are still in the Air Force but also have a passion for music. There’s this huge bond-type connection that you just cannot compare to your normal working day,” she says.
For a year and a half now, the Meridian native has been serving as a public affairs officer at Misawa Air Base on Honchu Island at the northeastern tip of Japan. Rogers, a second lieutenant, is looking forward to assuming the rank of first lieutenant in July. She was named champion last year during Misawa Air Base’s “Misawa Idol,” a contest inspired by FOX’s American Idol singing competition show.
“That was really cool because I have been doing musical theater and been actively involved with music, classical piano and Mississippi’s Junior Miss from a young age,” Rogers says of her Misawa Idol experience. “Having the opportunity to just put my performer face on was really good for me.”
Earlier this year, Rogers auditioned and was one of 37 individuals selected to participate as part of Tops in Blue’s 2015 tour.
Tops in Blue is a fully self-contained ensemble with members who work anywhere from 15 to 20 hours a day preparing for shows. Members include vocalists, musicians, dancers and technicians, ranging in rank from Airman First Class to Captain.
“I auditioned live in San Antonio, Texas, and after I found out that I made the team, I had three days to pack up everything, settle things for my house, car and job, and fly home to the United States,” Rogers says, adding that she is honored to be a part of this year’s team.
For more than 60 years, the prestigious group of talented amateur performers has provided quality entertainment from within Air Force resources for the Air Force family with priority to personnel stationed worldwide at remote and deployed locations. Nursing homes, veteran centers, retirement homes, child development centers, day cares and hospitals are among the group’s favorite performance venues.
Simultaneously promoting community relations, supporting recruiting efforts and serving as ambassadors for the United States and the U.S. Air Force also are among its primary missions.
Though still affiliated with the unit with which she serves in Japan, Rogers is—in military terms—on TDY, or temporary duty yonder. She will reside in San Antonio for a year while participating in what she calls “a really intense and incredible experience.”
“We have our own band, our own drivers who drive us all around America, and we have technicians who do our sound board,” Rogers explains. “We all help set up the stage, which takes about four hours before the show. Once we get to our destination, we have to get into our costumes and get our hair and makeup ready. We put on the two-hour show and then we tear down the set, which takes another four hours. We pack everything up into our big truck, and we drive to our next location.”
As the operations officer of the unit, Rogers is enjoying the opportunity to serve in a leadership position while developing her vocal, choreography and piano skills. She appreciates the guidance she is receiving from vocal coaches and dance instructors.
“The coolest thing for me right now is working with people from completely different career fields,” she says. “Some of us are classically trained and some of us haven’t been trained at all. Some can’t read music, and some are pros at reading music, but we’ve all really come together as a group.”
Whether performing patriotic, pop, blues or country, Rogers says the goal is to connect with everybody in the audience.
Free to all, each concert is “a good opportunity for us to support our fellow military communities and their families, as well as give back in a positive way to the civilian community in thanking them for supporting the military,” she says.
Rogers attributes her Tops in Blue success to the values and support she received from her family and mentors at MSU. She remains especially grateful for the guidance of John E. Forde, associate professor and communication department head, and Sarah Mutter Huber, former MSU aerospace studies assistant professor and AFROTC operations flight commander.
“My experience at Mississippi State was just top-notch,” says the daughter of Frank Rogers and Cindy Wyman. “The discipline, dedication and commitment I have because of my experiences in ROTC have helped me thrive in the military, and I’m really thankful for that.”