Tops in Blue set to kick off 'Rhythm Nation' tour

  • Published
  • By Erin Tindell
  • Air Force Manpower, Personnel and Services Public Affairs
Tops in Blue, the Air Force's expeditionary entertainment unit, kicks off their 2011 'Rhythm Nation' tour with a performance at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., May 25.

Tops in Blue is a group of Airmen comprised of 35 vocalists, dancers, musicians and technicians who perform for deployed service members and coalition forces, helping provide a sense of pause and escape for them so they feel inspired to continue their missions.

This year's show features American music from the early 1900s to today. The show provides a glimpse of a century of popular music and how it grew through new rhythms and technology. Musical performances include jazz, rock 'n' roll, R&B, country and pop.

The team has spent the past four months in staging production at their headquarters facility at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. According to Tops in Blue members, the team is ready to get on the road and showcase everything they've learned.

"Everyone finally gets to see all the hard work the Tops in Blue production staff poured into us," said Staff Sgt. Derek Speights, a male vocalist on the team and an aircraft fuels system craftsman from Moody Air Force Base, Ga. "From broken knees to broken egos, we've been through a lot to get to this moment."

"It's unreal looking back to see how much we've grown over the past four months," added Airman 1st Class Kristen Wash, a female vocalist and medical material journeyman from Joint Base Andrews-Naval Air Facility, Md. "I'm excited to get on the road and start performing for our Airmen and families worldwide."

For the past 57 years, Tops in Blue has served as America's ambassadors, traveling to more than 20 countries to perform more than 120 times each year for Airmen and families around the world.

Each year, the team spends a month performing downrange to help maintain a high level of morale for those working in dangerous and austere conditions. The team's goal is to not only entertain the troops, but give them a chance to clear their minds and motivate them for their missions.

Tops in Blue members tour for an average of 10 months. They work around the clock, sometimes logging 20-hour work days.

However, team members said they're ready to sacrifice time away from their friends and families to serve others.

"We've gone through extensive training to prepare for road life and the stress we may encounter," said Airman 1st Class Michael Williams, the team's audio engineer and a knowledge operations management journeyman from Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. "We have an outstanding production and can't wait for everyone to come out to see it."

For more information and a schedule of upcoming performances, visit Follow the group on Twitter at, on Facebook at or visit the blog at