Jesse James, servicemembers build monster humvee in Iraq

207th Public Affairs Detachment
Courtesy Story

Date: 01.05.2006
Posted: 01.05.2006 10:43
News ID: 4283
Monster Garage

Soldiers and airmen recently joined with Jesse James and the Monster Garage crew to create a hybrid humvee.

James and crew arrived at Logistical Support Area Anaconda on Dec. 17 and set up in the 181st Transportation Battalion's Skunk Werks shop to create their masterpiece.

Monster Garage is a syndicated television show airing on the Discovery Channel.

The show involves challenges set by James and his crew to create interesting vehicles.

The mechanics have a five-day window to transform their vehicles into machines that do things the manufacturer never intended them to do.

The crew brought an 800 horsepower engine with them and custom Jesse James 28-inch and 26-inch wheels to add to the humvee along with West Coast Chopper painter Pete Finlan to design the final exterior paint job.

The Monster Garage crew chose Iraq for an episode to show a different side of servicemembers to their families back in the United States.

"We set out to come over here not to focus on a TV show, or me, but on these Soldiers building something cool. And I think we did that," James said.

James also wanted to give the servicemembers something else to focus on while in Iraq.

"They were focused on getting a part here or putting a part on there and worried about completing this challenge and not about what's happening out there," he said.

Several mechanics auditioned for the show, but only five made the cut after being put through a casting call by the producers.

Truncating the show's normal time frame from five days to four days presented a challenge to the mechanics involved in the show.

"These Soldiers had little equipment to work with and no parts store to run to," said Command Sgt. Major Cynthia Graham, 181st Trans. Bn. sergeant major. "We were working long hours and we are in Iraq. This is not your average scenario â?¦ every minute, every second, every part they put on this truck was a success story."

The ability to work as a team is one of James" favorite traits in people and that is why he is especially fond of servicemembers.

"The military is the ultimate team aspect. You enter the military and everyone is an equal team player. I love it," he said.

"Compared to the other crews I've worked with, I've never seen a crew work as hard as these guys," said producer Ned Judge.

The servicemembers working on the project also enjoyed the teamwork with James and his crew.

"He didn't have to come here, but he did. He came to Iraq to see Soldiers and servicemembers. Every day he was out here, he had a smile on his face," Graham said.

After four production days, the crew performed a test run on the engine.

After blowing a transmission on the first go around, the crew worked hard to rebuild another one before the deadline.

However, after a failed second attempt 20 minutes before midnight, James called the mission off and an air of sadness floated across the Skunk Werks shop.

"It was hard coming all the way out here and not having the chance to see it work," James said.

But for most of the servicemembers, working together was more important than actually getting the vehicle to work.

"The last four days have been one of the best moments of my life and I will definitely take these memories back with me," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Jason Gregg, of Detachment 1058, based at Camp Speicher.

"We bonded and we grew together. The morale of not only these mechanics or this battalion, but the whole installation improved because of this humvee and him [James]," Graham said.

James and his production crew came back the next day and gave the Soldiers some happy news " the project will be completed back in the United States.

The humvee shipped out last week and will be sent to James" Long Beach facility for completion.

"The challenge is normally for five days and they didn't get a fifth day here. So we are going to film Jesse and his crew fixing it in the U.S.," Judge said.

The Monster Garage episode will air as the season finale in late April or early May on the Discovery Channel and all servicemembers at LSA Anaconda will be able to see the final product built by their own military mechanics.