By Staff Sgt. Jim GreenhillNovember 6, 2008
ORLANDO, Fla., Nov. 5, 2008 - Basketball legend and avid motorcyclist Michael Jordan is the latest high-profile celebrity to team up with the National Guard.
Jordan and Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, director of the Army National Guard, unveiled the 2009 No. 23 National Guard Michael Jordan Motor Sports Superbike to more than 2,100 cheering citizen-soldiers gathered for a training workshop here last month.
Music star Kid Rock, who also appeared at the recruiting event, joked about Jordan's celebrity stature. "Who decided to put me on after Michael Jordan'" he demanded to know, before explaining the celebrity pecking order. "It goes like this: Actors. Sports stars. Rock stars. Michael Jordan."
The professional closed-course motorcycle road racing team that Jordan has owned since 2004 competes in the American Motorcyclist Association's superbike class. Jordan joins a National Guard celebrity "A" list that also includes Kid Rock, NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the rock group 3 Doors Down.
"These people associate themselves with the 'best-in' categories, and that talks about what the National Guard is," said Army Col. Mike Jones, chief of the Army Guard's strength maintenance division, who has presided over a historic recruiting surge that motivated other services to adopt the Army Guard's recruiting methods when the component's numbers eclipsed its congressionally authorized end-strength.
When Michael Jordan's older brother, James, retired in 2006 as command sergeant major of the 18th Airborne Corps' 35th Signal Brigade - the only airborne signal brigade - he told the Associated Press, "The Army was my life. That's why I dedicated myself to it. I felt I could be very successful in it. It didn't require me to be [six feet tall]. It just required me to be physically fit."
James Jordan's career increases Michael Jordan's empathy with citizen-soldiers, the basketball legend said. "He's spoken very highly about the armed services," Michael Jordan said. "Some of the lessons he's learned, he's passed on not just to me, but to my brothers and sisters and everybody that has come into contact with him. I live vicariously through him."
Michael Jordan's been a motorcycle enthusiast since he rode his first dirt bike at about the age of 6. He committed to AMA racing after his third retirement as a professional athlete. "Once I saw it, I became a great fan," he said.
Aaron Yates joined Michael Jordan Motor Sports in 2007, and on Aug. 31 handed the basketball superstar his first AMA Superstock championship.
"Winning means a lot," Jordan said. "You put forth a lot of hard work and dedication. You start the season off with a lot of goals. You go through disappointments in the course of the season, and at the end of the year when you finally step up to that podium and win the championship, nothing's more gratifying."
Jordan looked out at the 2,100 citizen-soldiers who gave him a standing ovation here. "I've represented my country a couple of times," he told the soldiers. "And you guys have represented me."
(Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill serves at the National Guard Bureau.)