The Operations Wheels of Freedom Foundation (OWOFF) was born from its founders’ pledges in 2004 to improve the lives of deployed active-duty US Military personnel serving in Iraq. With automobiles and generous financial support from Daimler Chrysler, Ford Motor Company and General Motors the mission’s implementation plans were put in motion.
Things got especially dicey in Baghdad during the late fall of 2005. As hostilities heightened in the Middle East, the DOD’s leadership withdrew its support for in-country OWOF motorsports entertainment planned for the men and women stationed at Camp Anaconda, Baghdad, Iraq. It was the first, but not the last time OWOF’s team of motorsports enthusiasts would have to scrub parts of the mission. The men and women of OWOFF stayed the course whenever asked by military officials to make a necessary change in schedule. The result was an ‘edutainment’ program infused with automotive safety awareness messaging, that they delivered in an historic and impactful manner on US soil. Praise from the Marine Corps was voiced from every level of its personnel, as news of the OWOF tour took hold in Cyberspace and beyond. Unfortunately, an on-going war in the Middle East was not the only bad news to adversely affect OWOFF team members’ important mission. The US economy in general and domestic automotive sales both tanked in2006, as the country slid into a recession. Funding OWOFF’s future good works became impossible and eventually they ‘through in the towel’ and ceased operations.
Good News: in January of this year, organizing members of the original OWOF automotive safety awareness program for US Military service members, collectively and enthusiastically, recommitted themselves to embracing the same principles that guided them during their original charitable mission. New interest from the military’s leadership and also former supporting partners, provided the necessary impetus to commence planning a 2019 military tour.
The Foundation’s President, Dave Muyres, an original founding member of OWOFF expressed his feelings this way; “It’s such a thrill and honor to resurrect our very purposeful and entertaining driver safety training program. All young people can benefit from intermediate level remedial driver training, but it’s of even a greater benefit to young military personnel, given the nature of their dangerous jobs and the combat readiness training they all experience. And I should emphasize, that the entertainment value of our hands-on driving programs gives the troops an incredible morale boost.“
Organizing and then sufficiently funding a charitable undertaking the magnitude of Operation Wheels of Freedom education programs for US Military audiences is challenging. Beyond securing the obvious program essentials required, including but not limited to: attractive, state-of-the-art program vehicles, a well-staffed implementation team and the necessary funding, the OWOF team must align itself closely with the future beneficiaries of their work. Senior officers at HQ, hosting base commanders, officers charged with facilitating OWOF presentations and civilian leadership teams working at military installations all become stakeholders with voices. Fortunately, staging programs on military bases is not new to some team members.
John Graffius, Director of Operations and also a founding member of OWOFF had this to say.
“I personally refer to this newest military road tour, as my 50th Anniversary Event. I was just a college kid when I became involved as a volunteer with the first motor vehicle safety awareness program designed for deployed military personnel. That program was the brain child of drag racing legend, Al “The Lawman” Eckstrand whose ‘motor pool Mustangs’ captured international attention in 1970. The following year I put my college studies on hold and went to Southeast Asia as the US Motorsport Team’s staff photographer. No surprise that it was my pleasure to answer Dutch Mandel’s call in 2004 and become the final cog in the interworking’s of OWOF. Getting the opportunity to interact with our nation’s young men and women who serve all Americans as military service members is a blessing. We need to remind them that situational awareness training extends beyond the battlefield or skies of blue. They need to stay safe on our roads so they can complete the many missions of a long happy life.”
If the nature of our unique mission for US service members and their families resonates with you, then please stand with us. Perhaps you will have a hand in the future success of our 2019 program, as a volunteer, or team member. So too, you might choose to generously get behind OWOFF’s charitable programs, as a private citizen or corporate patron? The OWOFF team needs many special talents and professional skill to deliver our programs.
For more information about the Operation Wheels of Freedom Foundation and its fine work please contact one of the following members:
Dave Muyres Kristine Chandler
Executive Director Directorof Philanthropy
M +1 (414) 708-5026 M +1 (313) 734-355-6365