Sept. 9 , 2010

Air Guard 400 races in to Richmond

By Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen        
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

RICHMOND, Va. — The Richmond International Raceway will play host to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Air Guard 400 Sept. 11 and Airmen and Soldiers of the National Guard will be on hand to assist and participate in many of the events set to transpire during the pre-race festivities for the last race before the "Chase for the Cup."

The Air National Guard will provide 40 Airmen, mostly from the Virginia Guard, to stand with the drivers and their cars before the race commences. Four F-22s fighter jets from the Virginia Guard's 192d Fighter Wing from Langley Air Force Base are scheduled to conduct a flyby just after the National Anthem and before the start of the race. The Air Guard will also have recruiters attending the race to raise the public’s awareness of the Air Guard and help bolster recruiting efforts before and during the race-day events.

“The Air Guard has about a one percent awareness rating across the nation,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Matt Leas, the noncommissioned officer in charge of advertising at the National Guard Bureau. “That means that 99 percent of Americans don’t know about the opportunities that are available in their communities. This is one way to get that message out, and we’re proud to have it there, and we’re proud to see it.”

“We need to look at innovative ways to raise [awareness], and make sure that Americans nationwide know about the opportunities that the Air Guard has to offer.”

The partnership between the racetrack and the Air Guard, which was publicly announced Aug. 4 after a stunt where Leas and track president Doug Fritz skydived into the arena, will bring the Air Guard to the forefront of many race fans minds this weekend as they watch the race from home or trackside here in Richmond.

"With NASCAR having one of the largest fan bases next to the NFL, the marketing and number of people that an event like this reaches are in the millions," according to Col. Mary Salcido, director of recruiting and retention for the Air National Guard. “This allows the public to see that the National Guard is a two-pronged force, and anytime you can get that message out is a good thing."

“The Air Guard is a great organization that allows Americans to serve our country and their community,” said Fritz. “Many of our first responders are also members of the Air Guard and we’re proud to bring them on as a new partner at Richmond International Raceway.”

Also attending the race to drive their recruiting goals, will be a team of Army Guard recruiters from Virginia. The team will have their recruiting displays and will be giving away National Guard memorabilia to encourage potential enlistees to ask how they can serve their community and their nation through a career in the Guard, according to Sgt. 1st Class John Lewis, a Virginia recruiter.

In addition to the recruiters, the Virginia National Guard will also have five Humvees at the track, which will be driven by Soldiers from the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment. The Soldiers will drive the top five racecar drivers around the track in the Humvees. Soldiers from the Petersburg-based 29th Division Band will play the national anthem before the green flag is waved, signifying the start of the race.

Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt, director of the Air National Guard, will preside over the race as the Grand Marshall. His duties during the race will include announcing the traditional, “Gentlemen, start your engines,” and will present the trophy to the winner of the race.

“It is important to be visible in these events, to give the public a constant reminder that the Virginia National Guard is participating as a member of the community,” said Lewis. “We are Virginians, and hopefully, through our public exposure, they may want to be one of us.”

The Air Guard allows Americans to serve part-time providing flexibility to live life on their terms while serving their community, their state and country with honor and pride. With more than 140 units in the United States, Air Guard members can serve where they live. Serving in the Air Guard helps Americans earn money for college, receive world-class training for a high-tech world and gain the discipline and confidence to be successful in life.

The race will be aired on ABC at 7:45 p.m. Eastern, Saturday, Sept. 11.

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