By Parker Rome, Fort Riley Public AffairsJune 9, 2011
FORT RILEY, Kan. " It worked just like “The Field of Dreams.” “If you build it, they will come.”
The idea may have been a no-brainer " if you give Soldiers a chance to drive their cars quickly, safely and legally, they will come.
A record attendance of more than 100 drivers, including about 80 Soldiers, participated in the fourth Fort Riley Autocross June 5 at Marshall Army Airfield.
“By far, of the four we’ve done, this was the largest turnout,” said Lt. Col. Paul Mele, commander, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. Mele partnered with the Salina Sports Car Club of America in organizing the event. “I think it was a tremendous day for Soldiers getting to spend time on their post, getting to do something fun.”
Sgt. 1st Class Adrian Balderrama, Headquarters Support Company, Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Inf. Div., bought a 2002 Corvette last May while he was on mid-tour leave from a deployment. He said he heard about the autocross, got his wife’s permission and saw what he and his new care were made of.
“This is actually the first time I’ve ever done this, and I got faster and faster as I went, and it freaking scared me,” he said “It’s a blast. First you’ve got to put in the work and everything to get on the course, but actually getting out there and doing it, you’ve got so many things going on that you just don’t know what to do with it. You’re nervous, you’re scared, you’re excited at the same time, and you get out there the first time, and you wipe out, and you’re like, ‘Well, we’ve got that out of that way. Let’s go on.’ It’s so much fun.”
Balderrama said the connections he made with the other Soldiers and SCCA members who participated were “awesome,” and the weekend wasn’t long enough.
“If they ever hold it again, I will definitely be back,” he said. “I’ll probably end up doing it whenever they do it in Salina as well.”
Staff Sgt. Miguel Calica, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div., brought his 14-year-old son, John, and his 2007 Acura Type S to the autocross.
“The adrenaline was high,” he said. “I especially had fun because my son rode with me. He was my navigator and told me when to shift gears.”
The autocross was Calica’s first, and he said it’s been a while since he’s done anything similar.
“When I got to the starting point, my heart started to beat fast,” he said. “I was nervous, but once I got on the track, it went away.”
Calica and Balderrama won’t have to wait too long to get their cars back on the airfield for another autocross. The next one is scheduled for Oct. 16.
“Things went exceptionally well,” Mele said. “There were a lot of smiling Soldiers in a safe, controlled environment, driving at the edge of their skills, learning more and having a great time.”