COS KALSU, Iraq - The buzz of electric motors fills the air around the Contingency Operating Site Kalsu airfield in the late afternoons. As many of the base's residents are getting off work or heading to the dining facility, a small group of race fans enjoy competing against one another and quenching their need for speed.

Welcome to the Raptor Race Track, the home for radio-controlled wheeled racing at COS Kalsu.
The humble track was the brainchild of Warrant Officer Eric Barker and Staff Sgt. Raymond Lemelin, both who are assigned to the unmanned aerial vehicle section, Company A, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.

"A lot of people in our section were tinkering with radio-controlled helicopters, and cars and trucks were just a natural progression," said Barker, an unmanned aerial vehicle systems technician from Clarksville, Tenn. "It became a trend and, after a few more guys got interested, we figured out that we needed a place to race."

For a month and a half, Soldiers from the UAV section spent about an hour of their off-time each day preparing the 100-foot track.

"We laid out a track design, got a Bobcat and got to work," said Barker. "It was a lot of hard labor in the heat."

The heavy rains in May and April ruined much of their hard work early in the project, forcing the Soldiers to start completely over. By mid-May, the track was almost completed.

Lemelin, the noncommissioned officer of the UAV section from Miami, contacted several radio-control companies and received banners from them to decorate the track and give it a more authentic feel.

"So far, we have seven or eight people that are participating down here and we have a lot more that are getting vehicles," said Barker. "It's been fun getting other people to catch the bug."
Pfc. Nathan Mills, a UAV operator in Lemelin's section, is one of the people who recently purchased a truck and is excited about competing on the track.

"I'm excited about doing it," said Mills, a native of Little Elm, Texas. "It's a major stress reliever. It helps out because you find yourself thinking about your truck rather than worrying about home or stress at work."

Barker hopes that sentiment is shared by the other people racing trucks at the track.

"It's a hobby I like doing and it helps the time go by," he said. "I've always liked working on things and I think it helps me relax."

The track had its largest race on June 6, when six cars zipped around the track in an effort to see who was the fastest.

"It was great to have a lot of cars out here slamming into one another," said Barker. "The more people you have, the more fun it is."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16