Operation Appreciation 2017

Operation Appreciation (Day 3): Second Year on Tour is All New for BIGFOOT Driver Larry Swim

 

CAMP FUJI, Japan – Summit Racing BIGFOOT 4×4® Monster Truck driver Larry Swim is experiencing Operation Appreciation for the second time. Last year, the tour ventured to the Middle East and military installations in Kuwait. This year, it’s a whole different scene as the Tour of Champions, including Summit Racing NHRA Pro Stock drivers Greg Anderson and Jason Line, Harley-Davidson Vance & Hines NHRA Pro Stock motorcycle riders Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines, and BIGFOOT drivers Swim and teammate Dan Runte, are visiting American troops on station at various locations in Japan.

The third day of Operation Appreciation 2017 took the group to Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji, a United States Marine Corps installation that sits at the base of Mount Fuji. Swim shared his experience following a meet and greet at the Roadhouse, the club on base where military members can congregate to share a meal, play darts or pool, or watch television.

“So much about this trip is very different. Last year, we were in the desert. This year, we have Mount Fuji in the background. The landscape and the culture are completely different, but the one thing that’s the same is how welcoming the members of our military are. They have been great, just like they were in Kuwait, and everybody is very friendly and appreciative that we’re here. It’s always strange for me that they thank us when really, it’s our honor to be here. We get to do what we do because of them.

The families are here with a lot of the people stationed on these bases, so before we got to Camp Fuji, we had the opportunity to interact with quite a few kids. That’s always great, because the kids are just ecstatic. We don’t have a truck here, but they don’t even care – they see the pictures on the posters we have for them and they light up. It’s neat to be here for the families as well as the troops, because they’re all making sacrifices, too.

Today we met up with some of the guys from EOD [Explosive Ordnance Disposal] and they showed us their robots and the bomb suit, and that was really interesting.

These guys don’t have their families here, and they’re thousands of miles away from home, but they are committed to doing their jobs. They were telling us that they become like a family out here. When they aren’t working, they still hang out and spend time together, and without that, I’m sure you’d go crazy. You have to have that interaction, especially here, where they don’t have their families with them.

For EOD guys, I think it’s probably really important to have that bond with the people you work with. You know you can trust them and that they’ll have your back and do their job. One thing I’ve noticed through these past two tours is that there are so many different aspects of the military, and that each job is different, but they all need each other. It’s a lot like our race teams – there are so many different people working on different things, from crew guys and painters and welders and fabricators to drivers. Without every person doing their job, we couldn’t be a winning team, and that’s the same with the military.

While we were at EOD, the guys I get to do Operation Appreciation with were giving me trouble to put on the bomb suit. They’ve already done it, and so I said, ‘I might never have the opportunity again. Why not?’

The interesting thing about the bomb suit is that before you can even be accepted into EOD, you have to put on this 110-pound suit and pick up an 80-pound bomb shell and walk around with it. Once you put the suit on, you can barely move. Your arms stick straight out like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” and it’s so hot. I was only in there a few minutes and was already getting hot. They say that after you have this thing on so long, some guys lose their train of thought. They call it ‘bomb suit stupid.’ I can see where that would happen. Hat’s off to those guys for doing what they do, going out there to disarm a bomb and knowing it could kill you, and having to be on top of your game while wearing this suit. It was an experience, and I’m glad they offered to let me try it on.

Before we left, they pointed out the memorial wall. These guys know what they’re doing, but when you look up at that wall and see pictures of 50 men who lost their lives doing this job, it really hits you. They have a nice display honoring the men who lost their lives, and it really makes you think. Gunnery Sgt. Hill was the one giving us the briefing there, and he knew a lot of the more recent guys whose pictures were on the wall. That’s got to be hard, knowing this is a dangerous job for yourself but also losing a lot of your buddies.

Even though it’s a very difficult job, you can see that these guys are still passionate about what they’re doing. They’re very knowledgeable and have to go through a pretty intense school to have the opportunity to do this job. To see this environment, to see how they live and what they do, it really, really makes you appreciate what our military does for us. It changes perspective.

Leaving Kanto Lodge at Yokota AB early morning.

 

The group gets their first glimpse of Mount Fuji from the bus en route to Camp Fuji.

 

At Camp Fuji, Team Summit stopped for a photo with the great mountain in the background.

 

Larry Swim, Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec put together the banners before an autograph session at Roadhouse, the club on base.

 

The team with troops in the mess hall.

 

Summit Racing BIGFOOT driver Larry Swim was invited to try on the 110lb. bomb suit while visiting the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit.

Team Summit stops for a photo outside of EOD with Mt. Fuji in the background.

 

A big thank you to the staff at Camp Fuji. There were a lot of active duty members out on deployment when we arrived, but the staff did everything they could to ensure a god turnout with maximum outreach for the troops.

 

 

 

 

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