The sweet, soulful sounds of country music

  • Published
  • By Tyler Hemstreet
  • Staff writer
The sweet, soulful sounds of country music lyrics flooded through the 62nd Maintenance Squadron's Non-Destructive Inspection office, drowning out the talk of aircraft maintenance ever so briefly. 

The melody wasn't coming from a radio turned up past a respectable volume, but from Airman 1st Class Rachel Kleist, 62nd MXS, who was performing an ad hoc sound check for her fellow Airmen while holding a pen as a microphone inside a tool room in the squadron shop. 

"If I need any opinions on how I sound, sometimes that's where I sing," Airman Kleist said. 

The mini performances and critiques paid off as Airman Kleist recently bested two other McChord Airmen in the finals of the "McChord Star" talent competition to move on to Air Mobility Command's Icon finals Oct. 26 at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. 

Singing Alicia Keys' "Ain't Got You" as part of the Rythm and Blues night theme during the final night of competition, Airman Kleist wowed the panel of judges. 

"What made Rachel a stand out was her ability to adapt each week to the different styles of music to include Country, '80s, Standards and R&B," said Tech. Sgt. Brad Turner, 62nd Airlift Wing NCOIC of chapel operations and one of the judges. "Each week she brought it and ensured her place at the top. Rachel sings from the heart with a voice that is pure and honest. Every note grabs you and demands you listen." 

After singing in a choir in high school, Airman Kleist entered into some local talent contests, but her desire to perform waned after getting nervous and forgetting some lyrics at one competition. But the desire to sing competitively returned eventually. 

"It was a slow process but I finally got to a comfortable level with my voice and performing," she said. 

And while Airman Kleist admits she's a bit nervous about performing at Scott AFB, she is more than comfortable with the song she's chosen to perform, "Anyway" by Martina McBride. 

"She's my role model," the Airman said. "I enjoy country music more than everything else and I love the message she portrays with her music." 

And Airman Kleist will likely be in top performing shape. After the competition she was approached by Sergeant Turner and asked to join the Contemporary Worship Team. 

"I felt her voice and personality would complement our team well," Sergeant Turner said. 

She gratefully accepted, adopting another singing support group. 

"We're like a little family," Airman Kleist said. 

A family that will likely build up and critique one of their own as she attempts to bring the AMC Icon trophy back to McChord.