Operation Wheels of Freedom (OWOF) Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit, was launched to honor, educate and entertain the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces and address a growing driver safety need of returning combat veterans. Originally produced in 2005, the program received guidance from leadership inside the Pentagon, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy and U.S. Army. The result was a program that provided a focused, hands-on, driver awareness program, custom-designed for young, high-energy risk-takers across all branches and ranks of the U.S. military. The following are testimonials from key stakeholders and participants in our program.
Despite our original success, no single tour can make lasting change for an ever-changing audience. Today, the driver fatality rate for returning veterans continues to be disturbingly high. Statistically, America loses nearly one young veteran every day on our nation's highways. OWOF programming addresses this …
"Safety briefs are typically met with resistance because the Marines and Sailors are mandated to participate. With OWOF, it is not an everyday brief. It provides the Marines and Sailors a chance to get in a vehicle and drive a course with a professional driver. This brings a hands-on element to the brief. OWOF is an exceptional program that not only provides applicable safety information, but fun for all. The Combat Center is excited to be a part of this program again."
"The Marine Corps is continually searching for innovative training methods to educate our young Marines on safe and responsible driving techniques. Today we are experiencing an alarming accident rate on our nation's streets and highways. It is frustrating to have our Marines return safely home from combat operations overseas only to be injured or killed in an automobile accident." Operation Wheels of Freedom provided invaluable instruction and hands on training for hundreds of Marines. The opportunity to receive in-car coaching by professional drivers was an immediate success."
The OWOFF does this because it is the right thing to do. The OWOF performance drive and safety program does more than provide an appreciated respite from the rigors and stress of military service, it is also a memorable, entertaining experience that offers a new appreciation for vehicle dynamics, and an awareness of the inherent challenges that await our service men and women when they return home and take to our nation's highways.
"Actually I think the whole program was phenomenal. I believe that MCCS (Marine Corps Community Service) has definitely found a group that is able to offer something that the Marines like to do. They're interested in it. They're in a safe environment and I don't think there will be an equal. I think the Marines will be talking about this for a long time to come."
"For the once in a lifetime chance (OWOF experience)…I learned a lot from you in our short conversation, things that apply to more than racing, a lot about doing the right thing in life. You inspired me to be the best that I can both in the mission and in life."
Now, in 2019 and after a lengthy hiatus of our original program, service members are asking for a new, more energized 'Safety Stand-Down' and their requests have thus far garnered overwhelming support of several Military Base Commanders. In fact, we have received unsolicited requests for OWOF programs from U.S. Military Morale, Welfare & Recreation and Base Safety personnel stationed at 31 U.S. Military installations from all around the world. As a result, we have recommitted to delivering our experiential program to these young heroes.
When a sponsor or sponsoring business decides to take part in OWOF programming they do more than just good work—they also do good business…
"The chance to be part of Operation Wheels of Freedom was as humbling and uplifting as anything I've ever done in my personal or professional life. We brought the power and passion of the automobile to America's service men and women, in an environment they knew all too well, so they could enjoy these vehicles on their terms. And, boy, did they ever appreciate it. Our warriors put their lives on the line every day for us — a heroic choice they make — and to be able to pay them back, even in a small way such as this, is the least we can do."
"Michelin North America is committed to communicating motor vehicle safety, and OWOF gave us a fun and entertaining way to offer the safety message to young men and women serving in the armed forces. In addition, OWOF provided us an opportunity to introduce our high-performance tires to this young, sporty audience. Michelin's employee base is very diverse, with opinions to mirror that makeup. Those employees aware of our involvement and support ofOWOF were very excited to know that their company had elected to participate in such a sponsorship."
"Operation Wheels of Freedom is such a cool event which makes a meaningful difference in the lives of our veterans. It emphasizes safe driving habits for returning vets while showing them a great time out on the track with awesome cars, which made it a perfect event for Hot Wheels to be involved with."
"Operation Wheels of Freedom is addressing a critical and sometimes overlooked issue by reinforcing safe driving habits among our troops. It is tragic to think of men and women putting their lives in danger to serve our country, only to be injured or killed in an automobile accident after they return home. 3M has been pleased to help sponsor this program and proud to support American Armed Service members."
Automobile (driving) safety programs need to evolve with the times to include more than just automotive handling basics, but also the basics of distracted driving and new safety technologies. The OWOFF program does this and more in an exciting and professional, safe, controlled learning environment. Reducing automobile injuries and fatalities amongst our young, returning veterans requires an unrelenting and constantly adapting message and education; an education focused on the very real challenges, hazards and real life consequences associated with driving on our nation's roads. It is our hope and vision that OWOF programming become an important and ongoing offering for all returning veterans at all U.S. military bases.