News: Smoke Show ride-along 'best time ever'
Story by Spc. Reese Von Rogatsz
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Hundreds of motorsport enthusiasts came together in the parking lot of Lewis Main Post Exchange, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., July 21, enticed by the promise of "dirt, debris and clutch-kicking action" at a signature Smoke Show performed by professional Formula Drift drivers Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Ryan Tuerck.
Known for his aggressive, foot-to-the-floor, "big smoke" driving style, Gittin earned his first Formula Drift championship in 2010. In March, he announced a tentative 2013 schedule and his intention to visit military bases surrounding the championship circuit, to provide demonstrations and put smiles on the faces of some of America’s finest men and women.
“We provide the helmet, the diaper is up to you,” came the warning in jest over the loudspeakers.
Unable to resist, fans queued well in advance of the noon start time to sign up for shotgun ride-alongs. For a few lucky and outstanding soldiers, a seat was the reward for contributions and performance in going above their normal duties.
Pfc. Taylor Jones, acting rear detachment training room noncommissioned officer in charge with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division “Raiders,” got up at 7 a.m., excited by the opportunity of getting in the car with one of the best drifters in the world.
“This weekend was very, very different. I had a lot of fun going out to the drift event which is something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Jones, who was born and raised in Canton, Mich., just west of “Motor City” Detroit.
“It was a feeling of being out of control, but in control,” said Jones, as he compared the experience to a roller coaster ride and described a part of the ride-along where the Ford Mustang RTR slid in circles around a pole with the engine roaring, trailing clouds of white smoke in its wake.
Jones said he knew that nothing bad was going to happen, but he double-strapped his helmet anyway.
“He is the core of Charlie Company,” said Sgt. Shawn North, battalion retention NCO for 2nd Battalion, 23rd IR, 4th SBCT, 2nd ID, about Jones’ work ethic and how he’d stepped up to the challenges and responsibilities of running a training room as part of rear detachment while the Raider Brigade deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Jones graduated from Salem High School in 2002, attended a local community college and worked in several customer service-oriented positions before enlisting in the Army in 2011.
“I wanted a better opportunity, a career doing something I loved, which would also give me a chance to see new places,” Jones said.
“I watched my sister transform into a better person through her service in the Navy, and that’s when it clicked for me,” he added.
Trained as an infantryman, Jones aims to re-class to become a civil affairs specialist. He is currently pursuing an associate in business degree at Pierce College, always interested in learning while wanting to expand his personal growth and knowledge, he said.
“Best time ever,” said Jones, as he summed up the day, calling it an “amazing experience.”