By Staff Sgt. Christopher Gross, 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 31, 2017
COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
Three members of the 14th Student Squadron here are now in the semifinals of “America’s Got Talent,” a nationally televised talent competition.
When the competition started back in March, all 16 members of the a capella group, “In the Stairwell,” were cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. But since then, five members have graduated and are now commissioned second lieutenants.
Second Lts. Ryan Douglas, Colin Klopp and John Testerman, assigned to 14th STUS, said the journey has been a whirlwind of emotions, and their success has definitely exceeded their expectations.
“It seems surreal, because our entire time at the Academy, In the Stairwell has just been a club that we’re a part of that we just go have fun after a hard day of school and activities,” said Douglas, one of the group’s baritones and Salem, Oregon, native. “And now all of a sudden it’s taking this form where we’re actually performing on national television … we just seem so surprised that it has taken such a roll.”
The group has survived three rounds of competition so far, the auditions, judge cuts and the first round of the live shows. All three rounds have taken place in California, and In the Stairwell will appear in the live semifinals show at 7 p.m. CST on Sept. 12.
AGT has been the biggest stage the group has performed on, and they said this has definitely been a nerve-wracking experience.
Klopp, one of the group’s tenors and Columbia, Maryland, native, said making the jump from judge cuts to the live show was one of the more tense moments.
“It’s kind of hard to comprehend, because you think you’re just singing to the 3,000 people,” Klopp said, “but then you think about all the times you’ve watched America’s Got Talent and how everyone watches it around the U.S.
“[I’m] like, ‘Wow this is being seen everywhere by everyone right now, I don’t want to trip,’ … I already know the notes, we’ve sang this so many times. I’m trying to look good and not fall.”
To help calm some of those nerves, the trio said the group has a particular song they sing to get them pumped and ready to go.
“It relaxes us,” Douglas said, “it reminds ourselves that we’re there to have fun, and it’s not about us. It’s about us collectively, not just the group, but everybody else that we’re performing for and everyone we represent.”
Representing a force of almost 660,000 active-duty, Reserve, Guard and civilian Airmen, Testerman said the group was ready for the challenge.
“The high pressure situations that the Academy puts us through definitely prepared us for the high pressure situations that America’s Got Talent put us through,” said Testerman, one of the group’s tenors and Davis, California, native.
Testerman said the cadets at the Academy have also been very supportive of the group. He said the Academy has put on viewing parties and cadets have mentioned how “cool” it’s been to see themselves represented on the national stage.
As for In the Stairwell’s travel arrangements, per Department of Defense instructions all support for entertainment filming comes at no cost to the government, therefore AGT handles all the costs associated with their travel and stay in Los Angeles. After the show, Douglas, Klopp and Testerman will resume their pilot training. They have already been assigned to classes and will start Initial Flight Training, a four-week course, at the Academy as early as mid-September. After IFT, the three will begin Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training at Columbus AFB.
During SUPT students fly almost 200 hours during a 54-week period, this is also in sync with 400 hours of flight-related in-class work. Upon completion, students will earn their Air Force wings.
Douglas said he and the other four commissioned second lieutenants feel very fortunate to be going out on such a high note and begin what they initially joined the Air Force to do.
“I’m just happy we have this opportunity,” Douglas said. “It’s a good way to go out.”
If In the Stairwell wins, a Las Vegas show will most likely be out of the picture, but the $1 million prize will be disbursed as a donation and go toward funding for In the Stairwell and other cadet clubs.