Jay Leno thanks Fort Irwin Soldiers, families

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Photo by Casey Slusser, NTC G3 TASC

Former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno visited the National Training Center and Fort Irwin with his “tank car,” June 1.

Soldiers, leadership and families of this installation had an opportunity to meet and take photos with Leno and his custom vehicle, which is powered by an engine from a 1952 M-47 Patton tank.

Leno is a supporter of the military and this Army post, having hosted Soldiers to tapings of his talk show that would air on Thanksgiving Day.

That June morning, on a stage, Fort Irwin United States Army Garrison Commander Col. Jon Braga introduced Leno to a crowd, who cheered and applauded.

“You men and women do a great job – we can’t thank you enough,” Leno told the audience. “I just wanted to personally come up here and say ‘Thank you very much.’”

Leno greeted and had his photo taken with Soldiers, families and civilian employees of the fort.

Julie Epstein, a military spouse here and her daughter, Jordan, 9, were all smiles during a photo opportunity with the comedian. Leno told Jordan, “I’m an old man who used to be on TV.”

Julie said she is a fan and remembers as a child watching Leno on the tube with her parents. To have the installation host his visit, was significant, she explained.

“It’s such an honor just to meet him,” Julie said. “It’s a great opportunity for us. A lot of people don’t know about this area, what they do here and how much the Soldiers work. They do a lot, and so for Jay Leno to come here and appreciate what they do, I think it’s amazing.”

Jordan described Leno’s car as great, and had this to say about meeting a celebrity: “It’s amazing … because you don’t get to see a lot of famous people in your life.”

The NTC and Fort Irwin commander, Brig. Gen. Joseph Martin, chatted with Leno and rode off in the “tank car” after the photo session with the community.