The Bikes Over Baghdad crew is heading over to Kuwait and Iraq for their third tour next week to boost morale and bring support and holiday cheer for the U.S. troops still stationed in the desert. As a send-off we’re doing interviews with the B.O.B. II crew all this week. Today's interview: the one and only Chad Kagy.
If there's one guy who knows how to impress a crowd with big tricks over a box, it's Chad. During the B.O.B. shows Chad threw down some of the hardest tricks and always helped bring them to a roaring finale with flipwhips, superman flips, and a ton of other kickass variations. When not in the middle of a show, Chad would put in a lot of time talking to the soldiers every chance he got. On B.O.B. II he brought the helmet he planned to wear in the X Games, freshly covered in digital camo, and had a number of commanders, soldiers, and generals sign it. It was cool to see that helmet on TV during the X Games this summer, and I'm sure the soldiers were stoked to see it. Chad will be returning to Kuwait and Iraq next week for his third tour with Bikes Over Baghdad and is sure to make every show something to see, and something the troops will never forget…
Why did you want to be a part of this Bikes Over Baghdad?
It's not every day you get to thank the soldiers in person for their efforts. It's nice to go to Iraq to boost morale and let them forget about being away from home for a year by doing a fun demo. Wessel asked me to go, and I don't like to disappoint my good friend either.
Were you ever scared on this tour?
I was scared prior to the first B.O.B. tour, but never during the tour—the soldiers make us feel safe.
How did the second tour compare with last year's?
It was nice having a prior experience to know what to expect and to be more prepared. It worked since I feel we put on better shows the second time with less stress.
Incorporating different military vehicles (Humvees, MRAPs, a fuel tanker, a Bradley, an ambulance, etc.) into the shows was rad. What was your favorite to ride on and why?
Jumping over a Bradley was a highlight for me. How often do any riders get to flip an armored personnel carrier? It was a unique experience that I'll never forget.
Which was your favorite show and why?
Al Asad had a really good crowd and the change of schedule made it a surprise show for the troops.
For those who didn't see any of the X Games pieces that were put together, what's the story behind your helmet? Why did you want to have different commanders and generals sign it?
It's nice to do demos for the soldiers, but this time around I wanted to do something a little extra that allowed the troops to get involved. Give them something to look for at X Games, it allowed them to be involved and see their names on my helmet on TV.
You spent some time with the Wounded Warriors, what was it like talking with them and seeing their injuries?
The Wounded Warriors are the toughest comedians I have ever met. Their perspective on life, the war, and their injuries is amazing and caught me off guard. I met a few of them while hitting golf balls out the back of a palace into Saddam's lake. After a poor shot by me one of the guys said, "I thought I was bad at driving golf balls, but at least I had the excuse that my leg fell off while swinging." And the three Wounded Warriors there burst out laughing. Such good guys that understand where they stand and how to get past their disabilities as best they can physically, emotionally, and mentally.
What should riders/people here at home know about what's going on over in Kuwait/Iraq?
A lot of good is happening on a daily basis regardless of what you see reported on TV. The bases that we are in the process of giving back to the Iraqi people have had locals building businesses on a section of the base able to sell to soldiers and civilians that go through security checks. Also, to support the soldiers—whether you support the war or not. A lot of them signed up for the military for reasons outside of their control and wanted a better life, now it's their job to protect our freedoms, so support the troops.
What was the most rewarding thing about doing this tour for you?
I can see the genuine sincerity in the eyes of the soldiers as they thank us for risking our lives to do a demo for them. We're over there to thank them and take their mind off being in a desert for a year. The thanks I get from each soldier makes it worth the 14 hour flight to Kuwait with luggage drama from the airlines or any other petty thing compared to what the soldiers go through every day. I go home with a different perspective, a better outlook and appreciation for what I have and what I'm free to do every day.
What went through your head as you (and the other guys) were riding Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party headquarters?
I loved riding something untouched by a BMX bike and very well could go untouched for another lifetime. I also said "Saddam never thought we'd blow the doors off his palace and then use the doors to wallride this place." [Laughs]. I love the opportunities BMX has brought to my life.
What was it like going to the Ziggurat, and seeing the ruins of Ur?
I love the history of the area, Abraham's birthplace and structures from biblical times. Walking around that area thinking about what has happened in the past is a cool experience. Especially having Catfish with us freaking out about aliens taking him "home" from the top of the Ziggurat. I like shooting photos documenting the rare locations I've been to and look forward to printing an image from this trip to hang on the walls with all the patches the soldiers gave us.
Any good quotes from the soldiers? Anything you'll never forget that was said to you?
"Hey Chad, I used to ride BMX and always played as you or Dave Mirra in the old video game. You were my favorite to play and now you're here, it would be an honor if you would allow me to sign your X Games helmet."
Another soldier: "Thanks for making me forget I was in Iraq for the last hour."
And another soldier: "That was the best show I've seen out here in Iraq and it definitely boosted my morale, it showed me a little bit of the freedoms back home that we're fighting for. Thanks, guys!"
What was it like riding in 120°-130° temps?
I rode about 200 yards to the store in 135° heat and the wind hitting my face hurt and it sucked to hold onto my bike after it sat in the sun for five minutes. The grips were so hot the rubber got soft and the frame was too hot to hold on to. Luckily, the demo was just after sun down, so we could ride out of direct sunlight when it cooled down to 105°.
Out of everything we got to see and do, what was the best/most fun/most memorable?
The Black Knights (Blackhawk flight crew) treated us well with a good flight and finished with some flares fired off the back and then went by the firing range. After filming and shooting photos of the gunner firing a huge fully auto machine gun right behind me I looked at the photo and my son's name was written down the side of the gun. That's just one good memory out of hundreds, or even thousands of cool memories. I'm making a photo album with the photos and notes I have to make sure I never forget the details of this amazing trip.
It was cool meeting different riders who were over there doing their service. What was it like talking to them and learning about what it's like for them to be over there?
I learned it's tough on the riders over there that still want to ride. It takes trying to find a spot to ride to a whole new level. They also can't get seriously hurt since they are government property—they get in a lot of trouble if they can't fight or do their duty 'cause they crashed on a BMX bike. Hard for them to balance things out, but a few of them do. Gary had a mini ramp on base, we heard about a racetrack at a different base. The riders that enlisted and were serving while we were there really inspired me to do better tricks in the demos since there were real riders watching. Made me realize their sacrifice too, I love riding my bike and it would be tough to give that up to live in a desert in war for a year, but to top it off they gave up their bike, family, GF/BF, conveniences of life. That makes me proud to shake their hand to say thank you, it shifts my perspective on life a little more.
Click on the first photo below to view the gallery…