CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq - They may not have been the fastest, but they were definitely the best-looking.
A team from Company C, 277th Aviation Battalion's network extension platoon took the prize for "most creative" in the Exchange New Car Sales first ever Soap Box Derby May 18 with their raven-themed car.
Sgt. Amber Harvey, Spc. Matthew Cooke, Pfc. David Traylor, Pfc. Kenneth Simerly and 1st Lt. David Edwards worked for a month on their entry, incorporating elements representing their section - including a server stack as the base for their chassis - and using recycled materials they picked up from the Demilitarized Reutilization Management Office.
"We wanted to give the company a good name," Cooke explained. "We felt that if we decorated it as the Charlie Raven" - the Company C logo - "it would be an eye-catcher."
When they were finished, the Raven Mobile's headlight-like claws and winged sidewalls set it apart from the competition.
Topping off the winning look - literally - was the driver's helmet, designed (and worn) by Harvey to look like a Raven's head, complete with beak and flashing red eyes.
"We wanted it to look like a car, but also like it might take off at any moment," Cooke said, explaining the idea behind the design.
Although the car placed last of six entries in the speed competition, the team was content with taking top honors for creativity.
"We went more for a car that was a team-building thing, as opposed to speed - as the race showed," Cooke admitted. "So it was a good feeling. We all had a good time putting it together, and even if we hadn't won anything it still would have been worth it. It was definitely a positive experience for everyone involved."
The team had so much fun that they're already planning on entering the next competition, slated for late summer. This time, though, they're going to try to design a faster soapbox car; but Cooke thinks they'll keep the Raven design.
"I think the Charlie Raven is gonna come through and win next time," he said.
But if their plans for speed don't pan out, they can always fall back on their artistic abilities, as Cooke joked with his new motto:
"If you're not first, you're creative."