American Idol favorite, Lance Corp. Josh Gracin, is on 24-hour notice to be called up for active duty in the Iraq war.

"Joshua has been very up front with us from the very beginning that he might have to leave us," Ken Warwick, a co-executive producer on American Idol, told The Los Angeles Times.

"He's in contact with his commander, and he might have to go. He's got a lot to lose."

Gracin, 21, is among the nine finalists left on the popular reality-talent show.

But he is also a U.S. Marine with the 1st Force Service Support Group. He is on leave from his unit is based at Camp Pendleton, near San Diego.

Fox and the producers of Idol have already told Gracin if an order to deploy forces him to leave the show, he can return next season as one the show's top 10 finalists.

"That was a weight off his shoulders," a source close to Gracin told The New York Post yesterday.

But the loss of a contestant to military duty would add a new and melodramatic element to the hit talent show, which is already the biggest new series of the year.

The Marine is married, has a young daughter and is currently living with the other finalists in a luxurious secluded location and could not be reached for comment.

"Within each unit is a section that might not be called up, and Joshua belongs to one of those sections," said Staff Sgt. Chad McMeen, a member of the Marine Corps television and film liaison office in Los Angeles who has been assigned to keep Gracin in top shape in the event the Lance Corporal has to ship out.

The pair usually exercise three or four times a week together.

"We're making sure he maintains the Marine Corps standards," said McMeen.

"As you've seen on the show he maintains his haircut, his weight and obviously physical fitness is a large part of being a Marine," he said.

McMeen said Gracin also works out regularly on the Nautilus equipment, treadmill and stationary bike in the American Idol house and does stomach crunches and push-ups with McMeen.

"We're doing standard Marine stuff," McMeen said. "The thing that's hard to find is a pull-up bar, so we're working on that."

Early yesterday morning Gracin and McMeen ran about three miles, "but it was on a 20 percent grade," said McMeen to point out that the work out was rigorous.