By Pvt. Tamara Gabbard and Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kevin WallaceJuly 7, 2008
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (Army News Service, Jul. 7, 2008) -- X-Game athletes who dropped in June 28 to intensify morale for servicemembers, got their own taste of extreme living when they experienced the life of a Soldier -- Bagram style.
When combined, athletes Danny Kass, Nate Holland and Grete Eliassen account for dozens of X-Games, Olympic and other medals. However, their display of extreme snowboarding and skateboarding abilities only comprised part of their trip to Afghanistan. The athletes also explored the daily life of deployed Soldiers.
First, they visited the Craig Joint Theatre Hospital and saw the extreme exploits of medical Airmen, who cared for servicemembers and Afghan civilians suffering from a wide assortment of ailments and injuries.
"The hospital brought me to the reality that this war is really happening," said Kass, who got the opportunity to visit with the medical staff as well as a few patients, and used his unique style, fashionable sunglasses and witty personality to lift their spirits.
After their visit to Bagram's hospital, the athletes were rolled and flipped -- extreme Army style. They experienced the HMMWV Egress Assistance Trainer, or HEAT, which simulates a rolled-over Humvee and allows servicemembers to practice a variety of egress techniques at different angles.
After succumbing to the HEAT, the athletes moved on to their final Bagram "X-challenge." They were shuttled to a remote part of the airfield where they got to experience an aspect of extreme Special Forces -- from the safety of an Army-run firing range. At the range, the athletes got the chance to fire small-arms weapons.
For servicemembers, weapons could be essential to survival and, in other aspects, are similar to the way a snow board compliments the careers of the visiting X-Gamers. However, for the athletes, the rifles they practiced with warranted extreme adjectives.
"The weapons were rad!" said Holland, who can get monster air on a snowboard, but had never shot a gun before -- let alone an assault rifle. "What you do is awesome."
After "X-periencing" some extreme Soldiering, the athletes reciprocated by performing skateboard tricks at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation clamshell, followed by one-on-one meet-and-greets with fans and autographs.
One Soldier showed up, skateboard in hand, and relished the opportunity to meet one of her extreme heroes.
"I skated all through high school," said Spc. Chandelle Stone, a 324th Psychological Operations Company Soldier, who loves the X-games, and enjoys skateboarding and snowboarding. "To get the opportunity to meet Danny Kass is awesome because I would never get this chance at home."
Another Soldier recalled meeting one of the athletes in a prior job -- before her extreme Army days.
"Danny used to snowboard in Vermont at this resort I worked at," said Army Sgt. Heather Slater, 367th Military Police Detachment. "My best friend's brother made a film with them, so I am very familiar with these guys."
Just as their visit intensified the morale of their fans here, the X-Gamers were also enhanced by their new experiences, they said.
"[This] was an experience to remember," said Holland. "Seeing servicemembers, the things they do and how they risk their lives every day, it really hit home. I really appreciate it. Thanks for keeping us safe."