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Meet The Navy Reservist Going The Distance At NASCAR In Daytona
The skills that Navy Reserve Lt. Jesse E. Iwuji learned during his time at the U.S. Naval Academy and on active duty in became critical when he decided to pursue his true passion: becoming a professional NASCAR driver.
“When it comes to focus, teamwork, also just being able to make big decisions in high-stress environments, I think that’s where it really helps and comes to play,” Iwuji, a training officer at Naval Base Ventura County in California, told Task & Purpose. “When it comes to g-forces and aerodynamics and thermodynamics, you can actually apply a lot of [Naval Academy courses] to racing.”
Just like New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona, Iwuji has been allowed to reschedule his drill weekends so that he could race since he joined the Navy Reserve in June 2017. Most recently, he was able to postpone his drill weekend for February – which was later canceled due to the government shutdown – so that he could race Saturday at Daytona International Speedway and then Sunday at New Smyrna Speedway.
Navy Reserve Lt. Jesse E. Iwuji was recruited to play football for the U.S. Naval Academy in 2004.Photo courtesy of Jesse E. Iwuji.
For Iwuji, racing is the culmination of a lifelong dream. While he has always loved cars and racing, Iwuji growing up without the money to pursue his passion for the sport. Instead, the native Texan embraced football — the state’s unofficial religion — and was recruited to play at the Naval Academy in 2004. Once he graduated in 2010, he devoted his energies to his next passion of motor sports
“I started drag racing at different drag strips with my Dodge Challenger,” said Iwuji, who currently lives in Ventura, California. “I had bought a Corvette and from there I took the Corvette to different road-course tracks and ran that for a little bit and learned how to go fast around corners. That’s what led me to wanting to pursue a professional driving career. NASCAR was the first door that opened up for me to pursue that.”
He began racing in 2015 when he was sent to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, where he would work on weekdays, fly to the racetrack on Friday evenings, return on Sundays and be at work on Monday mornings. Since there is no formal training to become a NASCAR driver, Iwuji started out in lower level series of racing, but he quickly learned the finger points of race-craft.
Iwuji credits his commanders, both active-duty and reserve, for allowing him to take time when needed to race. “They were always really supportive of me just because they knew I was chasing my dream,” he said. “They knew what my end goal was and where I wanted to go.”
Although the Navy does not sponsor him, Iwuji said the publicity he gets from taking part in races benefits the service.
“Too many times, the only thing you hear about the military is suicides rates and veterans not being able to get this and that,” Iwuji said. “It seems like it’s a bunch of negative stuff, but this is actually something positive. It’s somebody who’s been in the military, who’s served, who’s been on deployments, who’s still in, and still going out and chasing their dreams.”
Senior defense officials offered a wide range of excuses to reporters on Wednesday about why they may not comply with a subpoena from House Democrats for documents related to the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
On Oct. 7, lawmakers subpoenaed information about military aid to Ukraine. Eight days later, a Pentagon official told them to pound sand in part because many of the documents requested are communications with the White House that are protected by executive privilege.
Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) will announce legislation Wednesday aiming to "fix" a new Trump administration citizenship policy that affects some children of U.S. service members stationed abroad.
The inside story of how The Village People shot the Navy's most controversial recruiting video onboard an active warship
The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.
Then the rhythmic clapping begins.
This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.
"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.
"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."
Well, I feel better. How about you?
On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.
A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."
"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.
President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.
"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."
The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."
Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.
"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.