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Learning Channel Program to Feature Guard's ‘Patriot Chopper’

By Staff Sgt. Mary Flynn, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2008 – Episodes of “American Chopper” airing on The Learning Channel on Jan. 17 and 24 will feature the first of three bikes to be built by Orange County Choppers for the National Guard.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Paul Teutul Sr. of Orange County Choppers and the “American Chopper” television program rides the “Patriot Chopper,” a motorcycle designed by soldiers. Episodes of “American Chopper” airing on The Learning Channel on Jan. 17 and 24 will feature the first of three bikes to be built by Orange County Choppers for the National Guard. Photo by Sgt. Mary Flynn, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Hundreds of soldiers gathered in front of the Army National Guard Readiness Center here in late September to witness the unveiling of the first "Patriot Chopper." The American Chopper production crew filmed the ceremony, and the two episodes will feature the bike’s construction.

Metalworker Paul Teutul Sr. and his son, Paul Teutul Jr. -- known as "Paulie" by his fans -- founded Orange County Choppers in New York after introducing their first bike, "True Blue," at the Daytona Biketoberfest in 1999.

The Teutuls quickly became famous among chopper enthusiasts, and the family, including the youngest son, Mikey, shot to wider fame when "American Chopper" made its debut on the Discovery Channel in 2002.

The Teutuls have a history of building patriotic bikes, and they have produced multiple theme bikes for several branches of the military.

The Patriot Chopper was the result of a collaborative effort between the Orange County Choppers and four National Guard soldiers. In early 2007, the Army Guard invited soldiers around the country to submit their ideas for the custom design of the Guard-sponsored bike. Four winners were chosen: Chief Warrant Officer David Vasquez, of Colorado; Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Billet, of Georgia; Sgt. 1st Class Richard Crawford, of Illinois; and Pfc. Joseph Scheibe, of Ohio.

Maj. Gen. James Nuttall, deputy director of the Army National Guard, presented certificates to the four winning soldiers during the unveiling ceremony. He congratulated them on a job well done and a bike well designed.

The highlight of the ceremony was when Paul Sr. made his grand entrance on the bike, coasting in coolly and revving the engine to enthusiastic cheers of the crowd.

The winning soldiers were in awe.

"To be a part of something like this is pretty cool stuff," Scheibe said. "We went to the OCC shop in New York last month, and we saw pieces and parts of the bike. But to see it finished was just really cool."

The finished bike showcases a minuteman air cleaner. The blade spokes of the wheels feature 3-D inlaid spearheads representing the seven Army values, and an ammunition belt lines the handlebars. Chromed M-4 magazines serve as the struts, and an M-4 rifle is mounted on the side of the rear wheel.

The bike is red, white and blue with an Army combat uniform pattern used throughout. A list on top of the bike includes every war and conflict the National Guard has been involved in since its founding in 1636.

"We took (the soldiers') ideas and put them to work," Paulie explained. "I think, for them, it really is their bike. It was a bike they designed and that we fabricated. I think it made it that much more special."

The Patriot Chopper is the first of three bikes commissioned by the Army National Guard. The purpose is twofold, officials said. First, the bikes are intended to be a recruiting tool. Army Guard recruiters will display them at rallies across the country to entice potential soldiers to talk with them. Second, the bikes can also convey important messages about safety.

Despite the television program's tough-guy image, the “American Chopper” stars remain extremely conscious about safety. The stars wear helmets and other protective gear religiously, a practice they hope to impress upon soldiers.

"They're very willing to help us out in terms of safety awareness and wearing the proper gear for our soldiers," Nuttall said. "The bike is one part of it -- the build. But the safety is really what we're trying to get after."

Before the ceremony in September, Paul Sr. joined Nuttall to record a public service announcement about motorcycle safety aimed at National Guard members.

(Army Staff Sgt. Mary Flynn serves with the National Guard Bureau.)

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