Maintainer to entertainer: Holloman Airman selected for Tops in Blue

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Sondra Escutia
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
When Staff Sgt. Heather Slade first saw Tops in Blue perform as a young Airman in 2004, she felt a joy that she hadn't felt since she left home.

She was attending technical school at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, and was away from her friends and family for the first time when the traveling performers put on a show. From that point on, she knew she wanted to share that joy with others.

"When you're away from family and away from home for the first time, you can get kind of depressed," said Sergeant Slade, an airfield manager with the 49th Operations Support Squadron. "That was one thing that, when I saw it, it was an awesome feeling and I knew I wanted to give that feeling back."

Now, seven years later, Sergeant Slade has been given the opportunity to do just that; she was recently selected as a vocalist for the 2011 Tops in Blue tour.

The journey that culminated in her selection was not easy, she said, but music has been part of her life since she can remember.

"I sang and danced throughout my whole life in middle school, high school, college -- I've been on the dance team and choir," said Sergeant Slade, a native of Portage, Ind.

She later joined the military and her aspiration to perform with Tops in Blue quickly developed.

In 2006, she attended her first Worldwide Tops in Blue Competition at Lackland AFB, Texas, and then again in 2008, but was not selected. She said she began to lose a bit of hope, but her determination carried on.

"Year after year went by and I didn't make the team, so I was kind of like, 'Am I really not good enough to do this?' But I've learned you can be the best person in the world and not make the team," said Sergeant Slade. "Maybe this year is not your year, but maybe it's next year."

Although she did not get selected to be in the show, she did get the opportunity to work administration for Tops in Blue staging in 2009. It was then she learned about the show and also picked up some lessons from the entertainers. In August 2010, she submitted her third and final videotape audition.

At last, her hard work paid off.

"I was home on leave and my commander called me to let me know that I had made the 2011 team. I was excited and upset at the same time," Sergeant Slade recalled. "I was excited to make the tour and that my dream came true, but upset that I would be away from my husband for a year."

Her commander at the time, who delivered the good news, said he could not be more proud of Sergeant Slade for making her dream a reality.

"Sergeant Slade is an outstanding Airman and NCO. The ambition that led her to achieve her goal is a true testament to that," said Lt. Col. Steve Collen, 49th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander. "She will be representing all of us on that stage and we will all be pulling for her."

One of her previous supervisors echoed the commander's statement. Tech. Sgt. Jason Compton of the 49th AMXS said he's always known she was meant to be a part of the Tops in Blue team.

"She is an excellent choice for Tops in Blue. She is an extremely hard working NCO that has been blessed with a special talent," said Sergeant Compton, 7th Aircraft Maintenance Unit Weapons Maintenance NCO in charge. "The 7th AMU Weapons flight could not be more proud of her."

A recent retrain brought Sergeant Slade to the 49th OSS, but soon she will depart on her year-long journey beginning with an intense 45-day training session at Lackland. Once there, she said she hopes to master the art of being a Tops in Blue Airman and eventually bring joy to her fellow service members who find themselves far from home.

"I hope to bring joy to everyone overseas and also help recruit for the teams that follow," she said. "I hope to walk away from it a better NCO, a better Airman and a better performer."

For more information on Tops in Blue, visit their Web site at