March Air Reserve Base and Cruz Pedregon Racing orchestrated a ‘Crew Swap’ to give each other a day-in-the-life experience; where the race team toured March ARB, Feb. 5, and a dozen service members visited the race crew at the Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., Feb. 7.
Jon Rucker, military program manager for Snap-on Tools, a Pedregon sponsor, began the ‘Crew Swap’ project four years ago to show how much they appreciate all the hard work and sacrifices made by service members.
“Cruz Pedregon Racing and Snap-on Tools believe in what our military members are doing day in and day out,” Rucker said. “We like our team to go out to local bases to actually see the great things our military members in uniform do.”
Col. Max Stitzer, 452nd Maintenance Group commander, was one of the key organizers for the visit, having hosted a crew swap at a previous base of assignment.
“They sincerely appreciate our service as members of the Air Force and recognize a lot of our people work for companies like theirs, so they certainly support the Reserve and Guard component,” Stitzer said.
The swap began with the Pedregon Racing team touring several March units, including the Air Force/Air Force Reserve’s 452nd and 752nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadrons, 336th Air Refueling Squadron and 729th Airlift Squadron and the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Reconnaissance Wing.
During their tour they got to experience the MQ-1 Predator simulator and static display, a KC-135 Stratotanker engine run and static display, and a C-17 Globemaster III tire change and static display. There was also a car show located near the statics for the team to check out during a BBQ lunch, compliments of the March maintenance folks.
“It was a great experience,” said Caleb Cox, team manager, Cruz Pedregon Racing. “I grew up wanting to be a pilot in the Air Force, so having this opportunity to sit down and talk with pilots and crew members will be something I’ll never forget.”
Two days after the base tour, more than a dozen Airmen spent the day at the Auto Club Raceway in Pomona for opening day of the National Hot Rod Association’s Circle K Winternationals, where they were able to watch the crew tear down, rebuild and fine-tune Pedregon’s Toyota Camry Nitro Funny Car engine, as well as watch Pedregon race twice.
Staff Sgt. John Barela, vehicle operations, 452nd Logistics Readiness Squadron, was impressed with the teamwork demonstrated and struck by the similarities between his job and the race team’s job.
“In the pit here, if their job isn’t done right, somebody’s life is in danger,” Barela said. “And, if we don’t do our job right and our vehicles aren’t safe, then we have lives in danger as well.”
The parallels between the racing world and military was also noted by 1st Lt. Joshua Weddington, 163rd Aircraft Support Flight officer in charge, who was amazed with the high tempo and turnaround the team had to undergo in order to be ready for the second trial, which he said was similar to the high ops tempo of the military.
“These guys are working as a team, turning, burning and torching everything down,” Weddington said. “Everybody has their job and works together like a well-oiled machine, just like we do on the flight line.”
Before the final race, Pedregon, owner and driver of the Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry Nitro Funny Car, presented each Airman with a special Snap-on Tools challenge coin to thank them for their service and for giving him and his team such a great experience during their base tour.
Pedregon’s Car Chief (Cruz Pedregon Racing), Chris “Warrior” Kullberg, echoed his boss’s sentiments. “I am thankful to all the men and women who took the time to give us a tour of their base and I’m grateful for what they do for us and our country.”
Footage shot during the ‘Crew Swap’ is scheduled to air on ESPN2 sometime during the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals in Phoenix, Feb. 22-24.