North Country National Guardsmen helping give bobsledders a brake

LAKE PLACID - When the men and women of the New York Army National Guard are in the field, they'll stop at nothing until their mission is complete. However, when they're on the bobsled track, their mission isn't complete unless they've stopped everything.

For the fourth year in a row, members of the New York Army National Guard served as brakemen and crew members for the 5th Annual Geoff Bodine Bobsled Challenge at the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Olympic Center. The challenge, which took place Jan. 9 and 10, annually assigns National Guardsmen to help stop high-speed sleds coming down the three-quarter-mile track operated by NASCAR and National Hot Rod Association drag race drivers.

The National Guard has participated in the bobsled challenge since 2007, when NASCAR driver and event co-founder Geoffrey Bodine invited Guardsmen to participate in the nationally-televised event.

"As a son of a WWII veteran and a former Army National Guardsmen, I thought we needed some brave people to ride with these drivers and there's no braver folks than our men and women in the U.S. military," Bodine said in a prepared statement.

Ssgt. James Bills, stationed with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry, in Morrisonville, has participated in the challenge since the National Guard was first invited. Bills said it's something that not only feels "surreal," but is something the Guardsmen "look forward to" each year.

"It's a rush," he said. "It's something that not everyone gets to encounter and something really fun to tell people about when they ask you what you did this weekend with the National Guard."

The National Guard has expanded its role in the challenge, now serving as a sponsor of the event. It's a connection that Bills said "simply makes sense."

"There are multiple members of the U.S. bobsled team that are actually members of the National Guard, so it's a good partnership," said Bills.

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