Kentucky Guardsman part of US Army Soldier Show

Story by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Kentucky Army National Guard 1st Lt. William Bland (center) performs during the 2015 U.S. Army Soldier Show’s opening weekend at the Fort Sam Houston Theatre in San Antonio. The musically-inclined Louisville-native serves as the personnel officer with the 198th Military Police Battalion. (U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps, IMCOM Public Affairs)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Since 1983 talented Soldiers have had the opportunity to share their artistry with the Nation as part of the U.S. Army Soldier Show. This year the Kentucky National Guard’s 1st Lt. William Bland earned a spot in the nationally-touring production.

A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Bland serves as the personnel officer for the 198th Military Police Battalion. When he’s not in uniform Bland likes to perform at clubs, festivals, benefits and wherever he can to gain exposure and experience.

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Kentucky National Guard 1st Lt. William Bland’s promotional photo for the 2015 U.S. Army Soldier Show. The tour opened in San Antonio, Texas, in April and runs through October. (Image courtesy of IMCOM)

“It is truly a once in a life time opportunity,” he said. “Being a part of the U.S. Army Soldier Show and seeing all that goes into a big production and being a part of all of it has definitely opened my eyes to a world of opportunities after this.”

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Bland is one of three Guardsmen performing in the tour. He is joined by Louisiana Army National Guard Sgt. Neasha Powell of Shreveport and Idaho Army National Guard Sgt. Andrew Enriquez of Coeur d’Alene.

Bland’s journey to the show began like that of hundreds of other Soldiers around the country in the form of an audition tape and packet submitted to Army Entertainment, a program of Morale, Welfare and Recreation that runs the Soldier Show. He called the audition process a long and stressful one, but made the cut to try out in person and flew to Fort Sam Houston, Texas where the hard work began.

“Audition week culminated with a live performance of the choreography and the vocal number that we learned throughout the week, and a piece we each prepared on our own. On February 16, 2015 the cast was selected and narrowed down to a total of 18 members, and that was the day the dream became reality.”

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Kentucky Army National Guard 1st Lt. William Bland of Louisville performs during the 2015 U.S. Army Soldier Show’s opening weekend at the Fort Sam Houston Theatre in San Antonio. (U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps, IMCOM Public Affairs)

As one of 18 performers, Bland will travel the country for shows in a scheduled 40-stop tour. An experience he said “couldn’t be a better way to use my passion to impact the lives of others in a positive way.”

Music entered Bland’s life at an early age. He said he still remembers when his older brother taught him about freestyling and how he was finally able to step out of his shell and attend open mic nights as a student at Union College. Influenced by Eminem and Michael Jackson, Bland keeps an open mind musically and pulls inspiration from as many other musicians as possible.

He first saw the Soldier Show while he was in basic training and left with a great motivation and pride in being a Soldier. As he got more serious with his own music and more into his Guard career, the idea of combining the two became a perfect fit.

“I thought it would be amazing to share what I love to do and to give Soldiers that same motivation and purpose that was given to me when I saw the show.”

Initially enlisting to help pay for college, Bland quickly realized a “greater purpose” in uniform and commissioned as an officer through ROTC. Rising through the ranks, he has earned the respect of his unit and leadership, who are proud to be his cheerleaders during the tour.

“While we will miss his services in 198th MP Battalion, we couldn’t be more excited and proud to have one of our own representing the battalion, the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and the Kentucky National Guard in this very prestigious program,” said Maj. Timothy Starke, commander of the 198th.  “We hope to have a large turn out to support 1st Lt. Bland when the show comes to Kentucky this year.”

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Kentucky Army National Guard 1st Lt. William Bland of Louisville presents Sgt. Darius Riggins of Fort Gordon, Georgia, a U.S. flag during the Gold Star segment of the 2015 U.S. Army Soldier Show’s opening weekend at the Fort Sam Houston Theatre in San Antonio. (U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps, IMCOM Public Affairs)

According to the U.S. Army, “entertainment for the Soldier, by the Soldier” has been a part of the U.S. Army’s heritage since 1774. Building on the tradition of Civil War camp shows, and more known military shows “Yip Yip Yaphank” during World War I and “This Is The Army” during World War II written and directed by then Sgt. Irving Berlin, Army Entertainment was formalized to inspire, support and coordinate theatrical and musical programs at Army installations worldwide.

Bland said his routine with the show has included a lot of hard work, many 16 plus hour days and has been physically and mentally exhausting, but he wouldn’t change a thing,

“A dream can only come true if you are willing to do the work necessary to make it come true. But success is worth the sacrifice. When you are faced with a challenge just tell yourself, ‘Easy’s never worked for me!'”

The Soldier Show is a 90-minute high-energy top ‘40s and classics show, and it’s free!. It makes two stops in Kentucky during the 2015 tour: July 29-30 at Fort Knox, and Aug. 2-3 at Fort Campbell.

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