FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – Top Gear, an American motoring television series on the History Channel, is scheduled to air their second episode of its third season, Feb. 5, which was filmed inside the gates of Fort Campbell, Ky., this past fall.
The week long production combined Hollywood magic with the military might of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), as the Screaming Eagle Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team and 159th Combat Aviation Brigade became part of the show’s cast.
“The cast and crew of Top Gear were great to work with and it was great to be a part of showing what we can do and who we are,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kenneth Barker, an OH-58D Kiowa Helicopter pilot in command from the 101st’s Troop A, 7th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade. “The best element was being part of what will be viewed by millions and representing Army aviation.”
The upcoming Top Gear episode is called “America’s Toughest Car” where the show’s host, world known stunt driver Tanner Foust, pushes the limit of a sports utility vehicle nicknamed “one of the toughest SUV’s on the planet.” Foust challenges being captured by the 101st and its assets during a "cat and mouse" chase scenario. Foust was impressed with the skills of the units and their top gear.
“I am in awe of what I have seen here, since day one,” said Foust during an on-post autograph signing event after one of the production days. “The equipment and gear used to track me down was so intimidating, and the ones using the gear are just unbeatable; I didn’t have a chance. It’s an honor to be here and meet so many real life heroes, absolutely.”
The staged scenario places Foust and the SUV, two high-value targets, deep into Fort Campbell’s training areas and given the mission to escape its pursuers. The 101st Airborne’s task is to capture Foust alive and obtain the vehicle still in one piece. During the chase, the 101st uses RQ-7B Shadow Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopters, UH-60 Black Hawk Utility Helicopters, OH-58D Kiowa Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters, Oshkosh Multi-All Terrain Vehicles and of course soldiers wearing Old Abe unit patches with boots on the ground.
“To be a part of this set, which was a just a normal training area a few days ago, has been pretty valuable to me and my soldiers; we’re actually using this filming time to train as well as be a part of the show,” said Sgt. 1st Class Nick Wisely, a platoon sergeant with 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT. “The use of so many vehicles and aircraft mixed with the cameras and crew members is so impressive and what better to complete the cast then having Air Assault Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division.”
The famed 101st Airborne Division has been exposed to large audiences before and once again has an opportunity to introduce themselves to a new demographic ranging in the millions.
“Participation in entertainment media projects is critical because in many parts of the country Americans’ opinions about the Amy are created exclusively by what they see on film and television,” said Lt. Col. Steven Cole, the U.S. Army film and television liaison for the Office of the Chief of Army Public Affairs, Los Angeles. “When a unit supports a television show or feature film they help shape these opinions to the largest and most diverse audiences possible.”
Now that Top Gear’s Fort Campbell episode is in DVR range, anticipation is building within the community and those involved with the production know of its importance.
“These are very exciting times and I think the opportunity to showcase the soldiers, units and equipment of the 101st is a very important one,” said Lt. Col. Townley Hedrick, the deputy commanding officer for the Strike Brigade, 2nd BCT. “Showing the agility, adaptability and discriminate lethality of the 101st Airborne Division on the History Channel is a great way to demonstrate the amazing capabilities of this powerful division.”