YOKOTA AB, Japan – The second day of the annual Summit Racing Equipment-sponsored, Armed Forces Entertainment-organized Operation Appreciation took six Motorsports champs to Yokota Air Force Base, where they were greeted by members of our U.S. Armed Forces—as well as many of their children. In a departure from recent years, when the morale trip brought the team to remote bases where military members were on deployment, this time around there are troops on station accompanied by their families.
At the end of the day there, Andrew Hines—rider of the Harley-Davidson Vance & Hines NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle—broke away from the group to talk about visiting Japan for the first time and sharing the experience with his Harley-Davidson teammate Eddie Krawiec, Summit Racing NHRA Pro Stock drivers Greg Anderson and Jason Line, and Summit Racing BIGFOOT 4×4 drivers Dan Runte and Larry Swim:
“Yokota is an extremely large base, and this year we are seeing a different side of things in terms of the size and infrastructure of these bases. They have full school systems, from elementary school through high school, and some of these installations are capable of holding tens of thousands of troops and their families. It’s probably more like bases you would see in the United States, and it really gives you the full idea of how large and well-organized our military is. It’s surprising to see for yourself how many troops are over here in Japan—and we’ve just been to two bases so far. It’s an impressive experience.
We visited some units today, and the one thing that stuck out to me was when we visited Civil Engineering and saw the capabilities they have to maintain facilities, build roads, and work on airfield runways at a moment’s notice. One cool thing was learning about the airstrip and the catch lines that they have, just like the ones you would see on an aircraft carrier to catch fighter jets. I didn’t realize those could be implemented on a regular runway if something went wrong mechanically and they needed them.
They also have a mobile unit that can deploy anywhere in the world and set up the catch lines on even a dirt runway if necessary. It’s cool to think that those things can be implemented in a hurry, and it’s just another line of defense to make sure that everything happens flawlessly. It’s really eye-opening to see the level of what they have to take care of with an infrastructure this large. There is a lot that has to happen in the background, and in addition to our military, they have quite a few civilian and local Japanese contractors to keep everything maintained on these bases. We met quite a few civilians while we were visiting Yokota, and that shows the good relationship between the Armed Forces and the local authorities and community.
We met one civilian in Civil Engineering who had his own racecar that he was working on, and that was cool to see. They called him Kobe, and Kobe said he’s ordered parts from Summit Racing before, just like us. It’s always fun to connect on that kind of stuff. When you meet other car people, you tend to take them under your wing a little bit. You get to know them a little more personally because you have that connection, and the more they open up, the more fun it is to talk with them. Kobe told us that [former NHRA Funny Car driver] Kenji Okazaki’s shop is only about five minutes away from Yokota Air Base, and then he told us about the car he is working on. Drag racing is something that he related to, and he thought it was really cool to have the Summit Racing guys here. We presented him with a Summit Racing flag that we all signed, and he was like, ‘Alright, now I’m going to go order some more parts for my car.’ He was happy, and it’s always neat to make a connection like that and see someone’s eyes light up when they talk about something we’re all passionate about.
While we were at Yokota, there was another experience I will never forget, and that was going out to the flight line to tour a brand new C-130. It was an impromptu visit that deviated from the schedule, and it was put together by a crew chief on the C-130 who came to see us at the mess hall earlier that day. He found out we were interested in seeing the plane, and within minutes he was making phone calls to see about getting the clearance for us to go out there and check it out. C-130s have been around for a long time, but this one was brand new and had less than 100 flight hours.
It literally had the new-plane smell, and everything was immaculate inside, right down to the grip tape on the floor. Climbing into the cockpit and seeing the all-new glass displays and everything else that these new planes have was really something. You can tell that these guys are very proud of their new machine, and you can also appreciate the investment that has gone into acquiring these to make sure our troops have what they need to do their jobs. It was a very cool and unique experience, and it’s definitely something that rates high up there on the list of things I’ve done over my six tours.
We stopped at the AFN Tokyo studios and did the radio show at one point during the day. You get the six of us around a radio microphone, and we can rib on each other a little bit. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a tamed-down version of what it’s like to travel with this group. We all have a good connection, even though we each have a very different personality. We get along, and we make the best of this time together. It’s always a good time when you can pull someone into the fun, and we did that with the radio DJ. It was an enjoyable interview, and we hope it was fun to listen to for the troops. That’s why we’re here – we’re here for them.
It’s strange and a little unfortunate that when you’re back home in the states, the military isn’t something that you think about very often. But to come over here and talk to these troops, these great individuals, it really lets you reflect on all that they do for us and why we are the leading power in the world. Our military is strong, and it is because of these people.
One of the other cool things about this trip has been experiencing the culture here in Japan. It’s so different than where we’ve been in the past, and it was interesting to see that there is no negativity towards anyone. It’s humbling to think about the history we have with Japan, and we’ve been very welcome here. This experience is something that I will never forget.”
On the second day of the 2017 Operation Appreciation tour, Team Summit ventured to Yokota AB, a United States Air Force base in the city of Fussa in the area of Western Tokyo.
The team inside the cargo area of a new C-130 on the air field at Yokota AB.
The seating inside the C-130 Hercules, a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft.
Inside the cockpit of the C-130.
Team Summit stops for a photo outside of the C-130 with SSgt. Stephen Rodriguez, who organized the tour of the great aircraft, and his daughter.
At the Samurai Café Galley with staff, including both American military and Japanese civilians.
All six of the Operation Appreciation champions pulled up a seat at the AFN Tokyo radio station for an extended interview that was broadcast to bases across the region.
The team with the big group at the 374th Logistic Readiness squadron.
With Japanese contractor Kobe, who told the drivers and riders about his racecar. The team presented Kobe with a Summit Racing flag signed by all.
There were lots of children in attendance at the autograph session in the cafeteria at the Medical Group on Yokota AB.