Wrenches, grease and father son bonding
By Airman 1st Class Malcolm Mayfield, 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 22, 2015
F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. --
After bolting the tire on, the father and son duo lower their stock car off the jacks as the sound of tires tearing around the track fades. The son hops through the window and into the driver's seat as his father gives quick words of encouragement.
Jeron Schmidt, 13, son of Maj. Neil Copenhaver, 20th Air Force deputy director of logistics, accepted the encouragement and headed off for a final test drive before the series of races that followed. Copenhaver encourages Schmidt, as his son follows in his footsteps, or rather, tire tracks, as a stock-car racer.
Schmidt is the older brother of two little sisters and, until this year, worked in his father's pit crew. Now Schmidt is driving the same stock-car he worked on and Copenhaver used to win the Warrior Class series last year.
Copenhaver said his desire to stay active was the reason for starting this hobby. However, he adds that getting his son involved has made it a great pastime for the two of them.
"It's great," Copenhaver said. "We get to do a lot of stuff together and a lot of times we get to spend the whole day together."
One connection that helped put Copenhaver and his son on the race track was Master Sgt. Christopher Isenberger, Task Force 214 and 20th AF plans and readiness NCOIC, and avid racing spectator.
After being stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., Copenhaver was interested in finding an outlet for his interest in racing. Isenberger introduced Copenhaver to the racing community giving him the opportunity to rent a car and try out this new hobby.
"We worked together when we both were in the 90th Missile Wing," Isenberger said. "It's awesome that he's passing this on to his son. [Jeron] worked for him, helping him in the pit, working on the car and now he's racing this year."
The father and son team worked together with help from those in the racing community, to get, what is now Schmidt's stock car, up and running.
Copenhaver was a major factor in Schmidt's growing interest in racing, and him moving from pit crew to stock car driver. His son was given an opportunity for his first race last year which sparked this new found hobby, and the beginning of this collaboration between father and son.
Sometime during the normal racing season stock-car racers are able to enter one member of their pit crew into a race; this gave Schmidt the push he needed.
"I appreciate my dad convincing me to get into the race car," Schmidt said. "It was a big deal back when I started, but then I realized it wasn't that bad."
Schmidt, having never raced before, said he was nervous to take the first step; however, after taking that initial step he grew to love the sport.
"It definitely makes a better bond and helps us get closer and learn more about each other," Schmidt said. "If you don't have the right strategy you're not going to win, and when he helps, it really helps me learn how to drive."
Isenberger said he views Schmidt as a mellow teen who seems to enjoy his time on the track.
He emphasized his support for Airmen and their families to get involved in hobbies or other activities in the community to fulfil the whole person concept and make the most of their current station.
"You can just tell that [Copenhaver] has passed on that passion for racing to Jeron," Isenberger said. "On top of that, I think he's passing on some good qualities to him. The apple does not fall far from the tree."
As the father and son continue their time on the track, Schmidt contemplates his future and looks into following his father, not only on the race track but also into the military.
"I've thought about joining the Air Force," Schmidt said. "I see it as helping the U.S. and having fun at the same time."