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Face of Defense: Game Show Features Air Force Captain

By Staff Sgt. Rhiannon Willard, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska, March 4, 2008 – An Air Force fighter pilot assigned to 3rd Wing here will be among the contestants on the March 6 episode of “Jeopardy!”

Click photo for screen-resolution image
“Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek and Air Force Capt. Timothy Bobinski, 19th Fighter Squadron chief of safety, pose on the set of “America's Favorite Quiz Show.” Bobinski was a contestant on an episode of the show taped in November. The episode is due to air March 6, 2008. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Television

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Capt. Timothy Bobinski, 19th Fighter Squadron chief of safety, will be a contestant on the long-running program, which bills itself as "America's Favorite Quiz Show."

"I've watched the show occasionally since I was a kid," the South Milwaukee, Wis., native said. "As I got older, I watched it a bit more, especially when I participated on the quiz bowl team in high school."

"Jeopardy!" came to Anchorage last spring with the show’s traveling "Clue Crew" and conducted tryouts. Anyone who showed up took a 10-question "prequalifying" test.

"By passing that test, I was invited to show up the next day with about 300 others to take the 50-question qualifying test,” the captain said. Both tests had questions on a wide range of subjects, similar to the show, and answers had to be written out; the questions were not multiple-choice, he added.

"I did well enough on the 50-question test to qualify for the show, along with about 20 others in the group," Bobinski said.

At that point, those people selected had to play a mock game of "Jeopardy!" as an audition, he said. The "Clue Crew" placed the names on the show's contestant list, and said the applicants may or may not get called to actually appear on the show.

Bobinski received a call several months later and learned he was chosen to appear on the show. He took leave and traveled to Los Angeles to tape the show in November.

After being chosen as a contestant, he had four to six weeks to review subjects he felt were commonly used on the game show. The topics included geography, state and world capitals, presidents and Shakespeare. He also recorded all the episodes, which allowed him to play along for practice.

While the game show has had specials that showcase military members, this was not the case for Bobinski. He was the only military contestant during the taping and said the experience was as he expected it to be.

"By the time I got to play, I don't think I was too nervous," he said. "They gave us a couple practice runs to get used to being on the stage. I had already watched a couple games being taped before my turn came up. Once the game starts, the pace is fast enough that you almost forget that you're being taped for national TV.

"Getting used to the buzzer system took a little while, and you have to work on timing, because you get locked out if you ring in too early, but get beaten by the other players if you're late," he added.

Bobinski said Alex Trebek, the "Jeopardy!" host, spent a lot of time answering questions from the audience and contestants during the breaks. "Alex is also very interested in military aviation and asked me questions about flying," he said.

The captain said his friends and family are looking forward to watching the show and seeing the outcome. Only he and his wife, Sara -- who was at the show's taping -- know the results. Bobinski can't reveal the results of his taping or the question categories that were used. To appear on the game show, he had to sign several agreements and release forms, which included agreeing not to discuss details or results of the show until it aired.

(Air Force Staff Sgt. Rhiannon Willard serves with 3rd Wing Public Affairs.)

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