USO-sponsored NHRA Tour lifting spirits across Germany

MIESENBACH, Germany (Dec. 2) -- NHRA stars Morgan Lucas, Spencer Massey, Doug Horne, and Erica Enders are hard at work spreading holiday cheer to U.S. troops in the European theater.

Braving snowy conditions and chilly temperatures, the foursome of drivers have had an eventful trip so far, visiting Army and Air Force personnel at a variety of stops in southwest Germany. As is usually the case when meeting the brave men and women of our Armed Services, the USO-sponsored tour has had a profound impact on the drivers.

"It hits home when you're here," said Lucas, driver of the GEICO Powersports/Lucas Oil dragster. "It's more than you expect. The way we're being treated and welcomed everywhere is special. We're over here to make these guys feel better but I have to tell you, they've done nothing but lift us up since we've arrived."

This NHRA tour is receiving support from GEICO Powersports, Lucas Oil, Toyota, and Mach 1 Global Services.

Based out of the tiny village of Miesenbach, Germany, just outside the gates of Ramstein Air Force Base, the NHRA tour first visited the U.S. Army Garrison in Weisbaden, Germany, where they were met by a welcoming party led by Colonel Jeffery Dill, the base commander. Colonel Dill honored the NHRA drivers with a Commander's Coin and Certificate of Appreciation during a brief ceremony.

The drivers then met several soldiers and signed commemorative hero cards while posing for pictures and answering questions about life in the fast lane.

"I was impressed by how much they knew about drag racing," said Enders, driver of the Dragster Ford Mustang Pro Stock car. "They really keep up with our sport; you can tell by the questions they were asking. I also met a lot of Ford fans that can't wait for my team to get our Mustang in the winner's circle. I told them, 'me too.'

"Everyone has been so cool to use and it's neat to see their faces light up when we walk into their barracks in our race shirts."

The next stop was the BOSS recreation hall, where single soldiers are able to spend their free time playing games, e-mailing home, or just watching television. Several members of the local media caught up with the drivers there and conducted interviews about NHRA drag racing and their visit to Germany.

After that, Lucas and Enders were taken into the television studios of the Armed Forces Network to tape promotional spots and commercials that will be shown around the world on AFN. Meanwhile, Horne and Massey went live on-air with Armed Forces Radio to send holiday greetings to soldiers, airmen, seamen, and Marines fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The pairings then swapped places to give everyone a chance to spread the NHRA message.

"You just want to tell everyone you meet how much you appreciate them and what they're doing for all of us back home," said Massey, the newly-crowned Rookie of the Year who drives the Snake Racing dragster. "By getting on TV and radio, we were able to reach so many people that we just can't meet in person. That was a great opportunity for us and we took advantage of it.

"I'm having the trip of my life. It's such a cool deal and I wish we could stay with all these different groups for days instead of hours. We're making lots of great connections."

Links to the promotional spots recorded by the NHRA drivers will soon be available for viewing on www.afneurope.net.

The tour continued on to the 21st Operational Weather Squadron in Sembach, Germany, where the 603rd Support Group of Chiefs and Master Chiefs serving in the 3rd Air Force welcomed them. Once again, the drivers were presented Commander's Coins and Certificates of Appreciation.

"The Weather Squadron was awesome to see," said Horne, rider of the Horne Racing Buell V-Twin Pro Stock Motorcycle. "They monitor all the weather in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, so basically, when a unit needs to go on a mission they can prepare themselves for the weather they're going to encounter. If you think about it, that stuff is very important to the support they can receive from the air and ground. It all works together and it was wild to see."

After visiting everyone there, the tour went to a special PAX terminal at the Ramstein airport where wounded military personnel are prepared for the return flight to the United States.

Up next is a full day at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and the USO Wounded Warrior Center.

-credit: mlr