A Few Good Men...
April 19, 2007
When word came from up and coming rider, Mikey Marsh, about a possible opportunity to do something cool for our country’s service men and women, MasterCraft immediately jumped onboard. As a company with close ties to the military through our 600 employees, MasterCraft told Mikey it would be an honor to be able to say “thank you” to our troops. Then we found out the trip was to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba! Immediately the questions begin to fly: How do ride near an island that doesn’t really like Americans? Is it safe to ride there or even be there? How do you get a boat down to Cuba anyway? Better yet, how do we get to Cuba?
It turns out, much like in Sopranos, it helps to have some family connections. Mikey Marsh, who father owns a MasterCraft dealership (New England Freshwater Marine), also has a brother, Billy Marsh, who is stationed in the Coast Guard at Guantanamo Bay, the 45-square-mile military base. Billy told Mikey that through his connections at the base, he would pitch a sort of “USO” style visit by some wakeboarders under the premise of entertaining the Marine, Navy, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard troops that are stationed at Gitmo. If the head guys at Gitmo approved, Billy said all the logistics would be taken care of by the military, including getting the MasterCraft CSX and the people to and from the base…safely!
It sounded like a tough sell but eventually we got the thumbs up and immediately sent a boat to Jacksonville so the Navy could begin the process of shipping the MasterCraft CSX 220 down to Gitmo. In the meantime, MasterCraft recruited a team of riders to help out on this trip including Andrew Adkison, Zane Schwenk, Keith Lyman, Jack Blodgett and of course Mikey Marsh (Rusty Malinoski was originally scheduled to go but a last minute emergency kept him from attending). Obviously all these guys were pumped about wakeboarding with the troops and hanging out with them but another cool side story was that Mikey would get a chance to see his brother for the first time in eight months and share their common passion for riding in Billy’s new home – Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
After all the planning the day to head to Cuba finally arrived. MasterCraft and its troops gathered at a Naval base in Jacksonville and soon were on board a chartered 737 out of NAS JAX headed to Gitmo. Over the next four days, this select group of ambassadors got a chance to do something very few people have ever done, or might ever do again – wakeboard in Cuba. Actually, that may be a little exaggerated, the troops stationed there have the option of renting small runabouts for the day from the MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation, our gracious hosts) and riding in the vast and beautiful bay that give the base it’s namesake, but it may be a little while before a fully loaded CSX will prowl those waters again.
The trip was a quickly moving and tightly planned barrage of demos, meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, parties and goodwill, and all involved were treated like officers and gentlemen. When asked about the trip, Zane Schwenk had this to say, “The visit with the troops at Gitmo was incredible. We not only were able to entertain them and wakeboard with them, we had a chance to enter their world as well. We saw the Northeast gate that is just a stones throw away from the Cuba military and we saw Camp Delta, where the world’s most notorious terrorists are being held. I got to put my hands on a 50 caliber machine gun and then was “attacked” by one of their Military Police dogs. So many cool experiences to say the least - I am actually thinking about shaving my head now too!”
*Look for the entire story and lots more photos in an upcoming issue of Alliance or by going to www.alliancewake.com