Army pit crew receives 'Army Strong' lessons at Fort Benning
May 10, 2010
FORT BENNING, Ga. (Army News Service, May 6, 2010) -- Ryan Newman and crew members from the No. 39 U.S. Army NASCAR team paid a visit May 5 to Fort Benning, home of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, located southeast of Columbus, Ga.
The purpose of the trip was to provide Newman and the U.S. Army/Stewart-Haas Racing pit crew with an overview of the training Soldiers undergo and to look for synergies which the pit crew could adapt into their own training program.
Though the day centered on pit crew members engaging in the U.S. Army Ranger exercise regimen, there was also a friendly pit-stop style competition between the pit crew and Soldiers on an M88 Recovery Vehicle and on the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet.
The traveling delegation, which included team members, Stewart-Haas Racing employees and members of the motorsports media, was greeted by Col. Ryan Kuhn, commander of the 197th Infantry Brigade.
"It's a humbling experience to have Ryan Newman and the whole team come today," said Kuhn. "It really glues our Soldiers to our civilian counterparts. The more touches we have with our civilian community the better we are. Our Soldiers absolutely hold these (crew) guys in high esteem. They really do think they're rock stars. After a hard day in Afghanistan or Iraq when you have an opportunity to watch or listen to the NASCAR race -- if you're privileged to have that opportunity -- it may be the thing that carries you for the whole week. That's how important this team is to our Soldiers."
The first stop for the Army pit crew was the brigade motor pool, which houses more than 120 vehicles, including Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Stryker Combat Vehicles, M88 Recovery Vehicles and Humvees.
Three members from the No. 39 pit crew and three Soldiers, known as Bradley Fighting Vehicle mechanics, competed in changing an 85-pound road wheel on the 56-ton M88 Recovery Vehicle. The No. 39 crew members changed the road wheel in 8 minutes, 17 seconds, a few ticks quicker than the Soldier team.
After a jaw-dropping 12.7-second four-tire pit-stop exhibition by the No. 39 team on the Army Chevrolet, the Soldier team followed with an impressive four-tire change of their own.
"What a pit stop by our Soldiers," said Ryan Pepe, rear-tire changer on the No. 39 team. "It's a pretty cool opportunity for us to come and mingle with the Army guys -- they do so much for our country. It was neat to interact with the Soldiers and observe what they do. I am sure they feel the same about us."
The Army race team then headed to the Army Ranger School as they took part in the exercise program known as RAW -- Ranger Athlete Warrior. The race team crew members went through a strenuous core fitness and agility workout led by Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Smith of the Ranger Training Brigade.
The regimen exercises included different types of stretching, lateral runs, squat variations, pull-up variations, 30-foot cargo net climb and the confidence climb on a log ladder.
"This takes conditioning to a new level," said Adam Davis, strength and conditioning coach for the No. 39 pit crew. "It pushes you to the limit, which is good. As do our Soldiers, we also have to be in top physical shape as an over-the-wall pit crew. Today was a great eye opener of a successful exercise program."
Speaking of fitness, probably the most fit group on the base were Rangers from across the country who were competing in the annual Best Ranger competition. The No. 39 crew had the opportunity to visit with the Rangers and were impressed with their mental and physical toughness.
"This was a super day for our team to witness firsthand the exercise regimen of our Army Strong Soldiers," said Newman. "It was fairly obvious that our crew was inspired by the Rangers, and the Army pride factor will continue to have a major impact with our team."
(David Ferroni writes for the U.S. Army Racing team)