NAVAL AIR FACILITY ATSUGI, Japan – Four-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson has been part of the Operation Appreciation tour since 2011, and he is always particularly appreciative of the time allotted to spend with our troops stationed for duty across the globe. The 2017 trip, though, shifted perspective a bit. Anderson, along with Summit Racing NHRA Pro Stock teammate Jason Line, Harley-Davidson Vance & Hines Pro Stock Motorcycle champions Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines, and Summit Racing BIGFOOT® 4×4 Monster Truck drivers Dan Runte and Larry Swim, were welcomed by not just the troops at the bases they visited in Japan – but also by many of their families.
Anderson spoke to OnAllCylinders after Day 4 of the journey and a visit to Naval Air Facility Atsugi, the largest U.S. Navy base in the Pacific Ocean.
“Each of these bases that we’ve had the opportunity to visit here are places where you would want to be. They each have a very important mission, and they take their responsibilities very seriously, but it is quite a departure from the bases we visited in Kuwait these last couple of years. It’s a different view of military life, and it put even more perspective on what is happening across the globe and how big our reach is.
Obviously, my favorite part about these trips is the opportunity to talk with the troops and thank them in person for all that they do for our country. This time around, we got to spend a little time with their families and children, and that was really neat. They have a daily life that is similar to what we have in the states, right down to American schools on base. This is more of a family affair than we’ve seen before, and I think it’s great that these men and women get to have their families with them as they serve our country away from home. There are so many facets to our military and how we approach things, and this trip was a good example of that.
Probably one of my favorite things we got to do was visit the kids at the CYA, which is the after-school youth program here at NAF Atsugi. The kids were excited, and they all seemed very happy. They’re having a good time here, and they’re learning and spending time with all their buddies. They were excited to hear about our racecars and what we do, and they had a lot of questions.
They were very curious, and I think the thing they were most excited about was the BIGFOOT Monster Truck guys. Our Summit Racing teammates had a bunch of huge fans in that room, and it was cool to see Dan and Larry interact with the kids. Walking into the room, the kids were smiling and happy to see us, and it was kind of a funny and odd feeling to have kids like that thing that you’re something special. Their parents are the ones who deserve that kind of attention, but it was a neat feeling and we were glad to bring them a smile.
One of the cool things we’ve discovered doing this Operation Appreciation tour is that these folks are making bonds for life. We had the opportunity to meet Commanding Officier Capt. Lloyd Mack, and he happens to be a friend of one of our good friends, Capt. Dave Meron. We met Capt. Meron a few years ago in Bahrain, and he comes to visit us at the racetrack whenever he can now that he is back in the states. He’s become part of the family for us, and he contacted Capt. Mack to let him know we were on the way.
Those guys have stayed in touch a lot of years, just like we do with friends from school we met 30 years ago. You never forget certain special people, and Capt. Mack and Capt. Meron were good buds in school and have kept up with each other over the years. It was really cool to meet Capt. Mack, you can tell he’s a good guy, and he made us feel very welcome.
He did us a little bit of a favor and got us into the F-18 fighter jet simulator. That’s not something the average joe would get to ever do, but he knew that we are kind of extreme thrill-seekers, and he found the best thing that could fit us. It was a cool experience, even though I didn’t fare well at it. I guess I didn’t expect to, though – I wouldn’t expect that you could step into a fighter jet and keep her off the ground the first time. But maybe at the same time, some of those fighter jet pilots would have trouble maneuvering one of our Summit Racing Pro Stock cars down the racetrack the first time.
It’s a different challenge, and everyone has something they’re good at. They just happen to be good at flying F-18 fighter jets. It was fun to be able to try it, but it makes you realize you have no business doing that. The technology was interesting, but it was also interesting to see how much they couldn’t tell us. We asked a lot of questions while we were there, and many times we were told ‘That’s classified,’ or ‘we can neither confirm nor deny that.’ We kind of chuckled at that, but it’s neat to know that we’ve got things the other guys don’t.
This is definitely a learning experience for me, and I know there is still so much more that I don’t know. Every step along the way on these trips, we learn more about the folks who are serving and protecting our country. It makes you grateful, that’s for sure.”
The first stop of the day at NAF Atsugi was at the café, where troops gather to eat and socialize.
Capt. Lloyd “Chilly” Mack made the group feel particularly welcome at NAF Atsugi.
Greg Anderson, an avid golfer when he isn’t driving the red Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro, was in awe of the golf course on the base at Atsugi.
Team Summit stopped at the Children and Youth Program facility to visit with a large group of military dependent kids.
Children and their parents received some cool Summit Racing swag to commemorate the day.
The group posed with kids at the Children and Youth Program facility after a fun question and answer session.