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Pfc. Star Exum is gearing up to compete as one of 12 semifinalists in the military's Operation Rising Star contest at Fort Belvoir, Va. Exum is part of the 304th Signal Battalion, based at Camp Stanley, South Korea.
Pfc. Star Exum is gearing up to compete as one of 12 semifinalists in the military's Operation Rising Star contest at Fort Belvoir, Va. Exum is part of the 304th Signal Battalion, based at Camp Stanley, South Korea. (Kim Ho-yong / U.S. Army)

CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — Pfc. Star Exum has never had a singing lesson. She’s never even sung karaoke.

But on Wednesday, Exum, based at Camp Stanley, South Korea, will compete as one of 12 worldwide semifinalists in the military’s Operation Rising Star contest at Fort Belvoir, Va.

Each semifinalist will sing for a panel of three judges, who will select six finalists to compete the next day.

“Since I’ve known her, prior to the competition, I had never heard her sing, even jokingly,” said Pfc. Keith Howard, her platoon mate and close friend within the 304th Signal Battalion’s headquarters company. “That’s why it was such a shock to see her for the first time. It was like: ‘This is what she’s been hiding.’ ”

In September, Exum won the U.S. Army Garrison-Red Cloud title at Camp Casey with a rendition of “Listen Again” by Beyonce.

She’ll sing the song again in Virginia and follow it up with “Midnight Train to Georgia,” the 1973 number-one single by Gladys Knight and the Pips if she makes the finals.

“Someone sent me a form to enter the contest, and I didn’t know anything about it at the time,” Exum said on her way to the airport late last week. “But soldiers [in my company] convinced me to do it.”

Exum, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native, said her family was planning to meet her in Virginia for the competition.

She says she has sung the national anthem at unit functions, but never expected to compete in a singing contest.

“I’m very excited about it,” she said Friday. “I can’t wait to meet all the other finalists.”

Wednesday’s contest will be shown on The Pentagon Channel at 3 a.m. Thursday in the Korea and Japan time zones.

During the same time the next day, the finalists will compete live, with a backup band. Viewers can go to OpRisingStar.com to cast their vote until midnight Saturday, Korea Standard Time.

Following the live broadcast, a replay is scheduled to be posted at http://risingstar.us.army.mil.

The winner will be chosen from a combination of viewers’ and judges’ votes.

The judges will be former Sergeant Major of the Army Jack Tilley; Nigel Caaro, producer of “America’s Got Talent”; and singer Jaci Velasquez.

Video

See a video of Pfc. Star Exum's first-round performance here.

The hopefuls ...

Overseas servicemembers and families are well represented in the military’s talent competion, being held Nov. 12 at Fort Belvoir, Va.:

Pfc. Star ExumCamp Stanley, South Korea

Indirah TirsoTorii Station, Okinawa

Staff Sgt. Victor TrinidadFort Lewis, Wash.

Fatima McElveenFort Campbell, Ky.

Amy Downing Fort Carson, Colo.

Staff Sgt. Darius RamosU.S. Army Garrison-Brussels, Belgium

Jill CharlesFort Hood, Texas

Spc. Cyril PowellFort Bragg, N.C.

Capt. April McDonaldCamp Stryker, Iraq

Joyce DodsonU.S. Army Garrison-Schweinfurt, Germany

Staff Sgt. Dirik ColeSoto Cano, Honduras

Capt. Lisa KopczynskiJoint Base Balad, Iraq

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