Chief Automotive Technologies has donated a new frame rack valued at $50,000 to the Operation Comfort Automotivation program for wounded U.S. military service members. Chief distributor English Collision Equipment, Inc. installed the rack at no charge.
“We are honored to have the opportunity to help these wounded warriors recover from the injuries they sustained while defending and protecting our country,” said Mike Cranfill, vice president of collision for Chief’s parent company, Vehicle Service Group (VSG). “It is our hope that this equipment will aid in their rehabilitation and perhaps even ignite an interest in joining the collision repair industry once they are discharged.”
Operation Comfort is a non-profit, philanthropic organization focused on helping service members from all branches of the U.S. military who were wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq and are rehabilitating at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, Texas. Depending on the severity of their injuries, these men and women will stay at BAMC from one to four years or longer.
Operation Comfort provides financial assistance to service members and their families, helps refurbish and equip waiting rooms at the medical center, and offers a number of rehabilitative and therapeutic programs in non-clinical environments. These programs include hand cycling, sled ice hockey, amputee surfing, softball, river rafting and Automotivation.
“Operation Comfort is structured to improve the soldiers’ spirits, so their rehab is faster and more effective,” said Janis Roznowski, Operation Comfort executive director and founder. “Their lives now are a cycle of medical appointments, surgeries, therapy, rehab, more appointments, more treatments, more surgeries, more rehab… That’s why it’s so important to give them relief. I believe that if they’re working on something they really love, they forget all the trauma going on in their lives. When they’re working on a car, they’re focusing on that car and enjoying the process. By fixing a car, somehow or other, they fix something inside of themselves.”
Automotivation was developed at the request of service members who were reluctant to participate in conventional rehabilitative activities or sports, but were interested in rebuilding and restoring cars, trucks and motorcycles. Participation is voluntary. The program is housed in donated space in a professional garage on Lonesome Dove Ranch south of San Antonio. It includes four service bays, a paint booth and break room.
Many soldiers who are injured and then sent to BAMC to heal feel cut off from their units, said Vic Hash, Army sergeant first class and a member of the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Sam Houston: “They tend to want to cocoon. This gives them something to do to take their minds off their injuries.”
Automotivation participants are building a 1966 Shelby Cobra replica kit car and are finishing a World War II weapons carrier body that they restored and installed on a 1984 Ford Bronco chassis. They plan to display both vehicles at the SEMA Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The soldiers have a long wish list of additional tools and equipment the program could use. Operation Comfort does not have funding to buy equipment, so it relies on industry donations of tools, equipment and contacts for mentoring and training.
Current needs include:
Chief accessory package and tool board
Frame measuring system
Alignment rack and equipment
Complete socket sets
Portable diesel-powered air compressor (125 cfm)
Sheet metal shear
Hydraulic floor jacks
Air tool kit