Riders connect with wounded soldiers
When the military brings tours to its bases, much effort is put into organizing entertainment for the entertainment. In past Bikes Over Baghdad tours, the BMX riders have had the opportunity to take target practice, fly in Apache helicopters and travel by way of C-130s. Today, we were attacked by dogs.
The riders started off the day meeting with wounded soldiers who are stationed around the Middle East but have come to this base as part of the Air Force's intratheater care program for treatment and healing time. The mutual admiration between the troops and the athletes on this tour has been evident from the moment we set foot on the base. Each group has such respect for the dedication, risk and camaraderie demonstrated by the other, and their conversations constantly reflect those feelings. This morning, a fast bond was formed as the soldiers and riders swapped injury stories and shared frustrations with rehab, setbacks and the feeling of missing out.
"We know what it's like to be separated from your friends and your team when you're injured," Brian Kachinsky said after an hour meet-and-greet and poster signing. "You want to be out there with them. And we've all had a lot of injuries, so in that way, we can relate. But there are a lot of things we can't relate to, like the sacrifices they make to be here."
After lunch with a group of soldiers who'd won the opportunity to dine with the riders, we took off for the flight line for a tour of a B1 bomber and more photo ops.
Then the tour went to the dogs.
At the kennel and training compound, we were introduced to several MWDs [military working dogs] and watched a demonstration showcasing their extensive obedience and attack training. Then a few of us threw on a bright red, very padded protective jacket and learned what it feels like -- sort of -- to be taken down by an active duty military dog.
And that was all before dinner.