U.S. FLEET ACTIVITIES SASEBO, Japan — The final day of the 2017 Operation Appreciation tour concluded with a visit to the USS Bonhomme Richard, an amphibious assault ship that is the Expeditionary Strike Group’s main battle platform.

The great ship was forward-deployed to U.S. Fleet Activities, Sasebo Japan, during the Tour of Champions that included Summit Racing NHRA Pro Stock drivers Greg Anderson and Jason Line, Harley-Davidson Vance & Hines Pro Stock Motorcycle riders Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines, and Summit Racing BIGFOOT® 4×4 Monster Truck drivers Dan Runte and Larry Swim.

Krawiec sealed the deal on the 2017 NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle championship—the fourth of his career—just a few days before embarking on his sixth Operation Appreciation tour to visit with troops stationed overseas.

“This probably sounds strange, but I think I enjoy Operation Appreciation just as much or even more than winning the championship. Before I was invited to join Operation Appreciation and visit with our troops, I never really thought about our military and what they’re doing overseas and how they’re fighting for us. Now that I understand a little bit better, I’m really grateful that I am part of this and have the opportunity to thank them in a small way for all that they do. It isn’t about who we are or what we’ve accomplished, these men and women show us a lot of appreciation for bringing a little bit of home to them, and that makes you feel really good, especially during the holidays when they are so far away from the United States.

“This trip has been very interesting compared to the others because we haven’t ever been to an area that isn’t at major risk. To see the troops here with their families has been refreshing, and you can tell that they love it here. Most of the places we’ve been, troops are deployed for nine months to a year, and they are just doing their job and waiting to go home – but here, people love it so much they want to stay as long as they can. The culture here in Japan is great, and Americans are made to feel so welcome. This is a whole new perspective, and one I’ve never really given thought to.

“Today was really cool because we got to go on the USS Bonhomme Richard, meet the troops, and tour the ship. I’ve never been on a ship of any size aside from a little boat, and this thing was massive. When I saw the itinerary for this trip and realized this would be part of it, I was really excited because it’s something totally different. It was great to go into their environment and talk to the troops in their own workspace. They want to show you what they do, and that’s sure what we got. It was a very productive visit, and I couldn’t even tell you how many people we met today. It was really cool, and just seeing the enormity of the ship, it blows your mind. It’s a memory that will last forever, and it’s an honor because I know there aren’t many people that can say they had this opportunity.

“The ship is so huge that you have to take a panoramic picture if you’re anywhere close to it—you can’t fit it into a regular photo. We walked down to the bottom, the well deck, where they bring boats in and out at sea, and they can fit four full-size boats down there. That really gives you an idea of the size of this thing. It’s rather impressive.

“There is a whole medical area with triage, operating rooms, an intensive care unit, even a dental facility. The ship can hold enough people to populate a small city, and they have everything they need when they go out to sea. It was a very cool experience.

“Being here at the holidays has been special, too. There are Christmas lights up around base, and you can feel that the troops and their families are in the holiday spirit. We had the opportunity to be part of the tree lighting ceremony, and there were so many people, so many families. They really embraced the event, and it was a great turnout. It was just like home, and it was great to be part of this. This whole tour is always so special to me, and this year was a very different experience. It means a lot that Summit Racing and Armed Forces Entertainment—as well as our families back home—allow us to have this opportunity to connect with our troops.

“These trips have opened my eyes, and they have shown me that you have to go out and experience things yourself and not judge something by what you’re told. Traveling around the world and visiting our troops and seeing how they operate these last few years is something special that I will always have with me.”

The team’s first look at U.S. Fleet Activities, Sasebo, Japan.


Brodie’s café on Sasebo made sure the troops would know that Team Summit was coming to visit.


A small BIGFOOT Monster Truck fan and his family came to meet the team.


This little guy got an autograph from the BIGFOOT drivers back in the states last year.


Many folks came by to meet the group while they were at Brodie’s during the lunch hour…


…including one troop who wanted the visor of his racecar signed by Team Summit…


…and a young lady who also drag raced.


The drivers signed banners to leave behind at Brodie’s, the café on Sasebo that is already fully decorated with a drag racing and racing-theme.


The group was invited to take a photo on the stage being set up for an up-coming promotion ceremony.


On board the USS Bonhomme Richard, an enormous amphibious assault ship that is part of the Expeditionary Strike Group.


The team was greeted heartily by troops in the galley on board the USS Bonhomme Richard, which is forward deployed at Sasebo.


On the well deck of the USS Bonhomme Richard.


It’s easy to gain quick perspective on the size of the ship when you see the enormity of the well deck.


The team toured the flight deck of the USS Bonhomme Richard with Chief Aviation Boatswains Mate (Handling) Kenji Kimura.