Before becoming a NASCAR engine builder, then a championship-winning drag racer on the National Hot Rod Association tour, Jason Line spent nearly four years in the U.S. Air Force.
Even nearly 25 years after getting out of the Air Force, Line still feels a connection with the men and women still serving.
That’s why, for the past five years, Line has been an eager participant in Summit Racing Equipment’s annual Operation Appreciation overseas tour of U.S. military bases.
Line and his teammate, Greg Anderson, who both drive for the Mooresville-based KB Racing NHRA Pro Stock team, spent a week in early December touring bases in Kuwait with NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle racers Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec, and Monster Truck driver Dan Runte.
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“It’s quite a trip,” said Line, a two-time NHRA Pro Stock series champion. “This is my seventh troop visit overall. It’s quite an experience, that’s for sure.”
Line’s first overseas military tour took place in 2008, when General Motors’ racing division sponsored trips involving its stable of drivers on the various racing series.
“Throughout the years, we’ve been to Germany several times,” Line said. “We’ve been to Bosnia, Kosovo, Abu Dhabi, Djbouti (an African country at the mouth of the Red Sea), Ethopia, Dubai, a lot of places.”
When GM dropped the program in 2010, Summit Racing Equipment – which sponsors Line and Anderson’s Pro Stock teams and Runte’s Monster Truck team, and is an associate on Hines’ and Krawiec’s Pro Stock Motorcycle team – picked up the slack.
“It’s kind of been a tradition,” said Line, who was in the Air Force from 1987 to 1991 and served overseas during the Persian Gulf War. “When GM dropped it, Summit decided to continue it. It runs from seven to 10 days, depending on the year, but this year got shortened to five days because there’s too much unrest going on over there.”
During this year’s Operation Appreciation trip, the drivers visited four military bases in Kuwait – Camp Buehring, Camp Patriot, Camp Arifjan and the Kuwaiti Air Force’s Al Jaber air base, which hosts the Air Force’s 386th Air Expeditionary Wing.
“It’s pretty enlightening,” said Anderson, who has made the overseas trip the past five years. “They try to bring us to a different place every year. We went to Kuwait two years ago, but they had their ‘great flood’ – the biggest rainfall they’ve had in 33 years – and it completely swamped up the bases we were on. We couldn’t do anything, so we went back this year.”
During the trip, the drivers got to try out remote-controlled robots used by the explosive ordinance disposal units, drive some of the heavy equipment used – even an armored Humvee on a desert obstacle course – examine Apache and Blackhawk helicopters and an Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, and try out their shooting skills on a computerized firing range.
And they met with hundreds of men and women from the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines – the real purpose of the trip.
“It’s really a rewarding deal for us, because we’re going over to help them and give those guys a little slice of home,” Line said. “But it’s more of an eye opener for us if anything – it reminds you of why we need the military folks over there. They do a heck of a service, and a lot of sacrifice.”
Bill Kiser is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.