ARLINGTON, Va. (Oct. 2, 2007) - Hundreds of Soldiers gathered here in front of the Army National Guard Readiness Center on Sept. 27 to witness the unveiling of the "Patriot Chopper," the first of three bikes to be built by Orange County Choppers for the National Guard.

Metalworker Paul Teutul Sr. and son, Paul Teutul Jr., who is referred to as "Paulie" by fans, founded OCC in New York after introducing their first bike, "True Blue," at the Daytona Biketoberfest in 1999.

The Teutuls quickly became a household name for chopper enthusiasts, and the family, including the youngest son, Mikey, shot to fame when their own show, "American Chopper," debuted on the Discovery Channel in 2002.

The Teutuls have a history of building patriotic bikes, and they have produced multiple theme bikes for several branches of the military.

The "Patriot Chopper" was the result of a collaborative effort between the OCC and four National Guard Soldiers.

Earlier this year, the Army Guard invited Soldiers around the country to submit their ideas for the custom design of the Guard-sponsored bike. Four winners were chosen: Chief Warrant Officer David Vasquez of Colorado; Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Billet of Georgia; Sgt. 1st Class Richard Crawford of Illinois and Pfc. Joseph Scheibe of Ohio.

Maj. Gen. James Nuttall, deputy director of the Army National Guard, presented certificates to the four winning Soldiers during the unveiling ceremony. He congratulated them on a job well done and a bike well-designed.

Paul Sr. made a grand entrance on the bike, coasting in coolly and revving the engine to the enthusiastic cheers of the crowd.

The winning Soldiers were in awe. "To be a part of something like this is pretty cool stuff," said Pfc. Scheibe. "We went to the OCC shop in New York last month, and we saw pieces and parts of the bike. But to see it finished was just really cool."

The finished bike showcases a minuteman air cleaner. The blade spokes of the wheels feature 3-D inlaid spearheads, representing the seven Army values and an ammunition belt lines the handlebars. Chromed M-4 magazines serve as the struts, and an M-4 carbine is mounted on the side of the rear wheel.

The color of the bike is red, white and blue with an Army Combat Uniform pattern used throughout. A list on top of the bike includes every war and conflict the National Guard has been involved in since its founding in 1636.

"We took the Soldiers' ideas and put them to work," Paulie explained, "I think for them, it really is their bike. It was a bike they designed and that we fabricated. I think it made it that much more special."

The "Patriot Chopper" is the first of three bikes commissioned by the Army National Guard. The purpose is twofold. First, the bikes are intended to be a recruiting tool. Army Guard recruiters will display them at rallies across the country to entice potential Soldiers to talk with them.

Second, the bikes can also convey important messages about safety.

Despite the television program's tough-guy image, the American Chopper stars remain extremely conscious about safety. The stars wear helmets and other protective gear religiously, a practice they hope to impress upon Soldiers.

"They're very willing to help us out in terms of safety awareness and wearing the proper gear for our Soldiers," said Maj. Gen. Nuttall. "The bike is one part of it - the build. But the safety is really what we're trying to get after."

(Sgt. Mary Flynn writes for the National Guard Bureau.)