WASHINGTON — Next time 2nd Lt. Kelly George puts on her Air Force uniform, she could have a new sash to go with her patches.

George is one of 51 women vying for the Miss USA title Friday night, one of the Miss Universe Organization’s annual pageants. She is the first active-duty military contestant in the competition’s 56-year history.

“[Being military] doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of a beauty queen, so I’ve been getting a lot of questions from the media on that,” she said. “The other ladies have been asking me about that too; what I do, what I had to do in boot camp, things like that.

“A lot them say, ‘I could never do that,’ but I keep telling them, ‘Yeah, you probably could.’ These are all strong, fit women. And you don’t have to sacrifice your femininity to be in the military.”

George, 24, is deputy chief of public affairs at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Commanders there have been planning pageant viewing parties around base since she was named Miss Arkansas last October.

George said she began competing in beauty pageants in high school, and scholarship money she won helped pay for tuition at University of Maryland. She also enrolled in ROTC to help pay for her communications degree.

Both the military and the pageants were “things I’d never dreamed about doing,” she said. “But my goals were to do something I was good at, something that was fun, and something where I could make a difference.”

The two personas don’t always mesh — “obviously, I look a lot different in uniform than I do when competing” — but George said both paths are helping her improve her public relations skills and moving her toward a dream job as White House press secretary.

The winner of the pageant, which airs on NBC at 9 p.m. on Friday, receives a two-year scholarship to the New York Film Academy, professional public relations and media training, and nearly $300,000 in other prizes. Runners-up also receive cash awards.

The competition is not scheduled to air on American Forces Network television, but overseas military can vote for George in the “Miss Photogenic” mini-competition at

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