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Off-road racer Aims High in Pro-Am, uses WEAR to compete

  • Published
  • By Christine Cuttita, Air Force Recruiting Service Public Affairs
  • Air Force Recruiting Service

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas-- A small town farmer who’s been riding dirt bikes since he was in diapers is now racing in utility task vehicles and seeing the world with the Air Force. 

Staff Sgt. Josiah Opsahl started racing in Pro-Am motocross while attending high school in Luxemburg, Wisconsin, about 30 minutes east of Green Bay. Although he joined the Air Force soon after in 2014, it didn’t stop him from getting back on the track as often as he could.

“I attended a community college while still working on the farm when I realized that I couldn't afford schooling without taking big school loans,” he said. “I talked to some family friends, and they all said that the Air Force was the best branch. I got in contact with the recruiter and started the ball rolling.”

His first assignment, in the career field of ground transportation, took him across the world to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

“After a year over there, I married my high school sweetheart of three plus years,” he said. “We moved to Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, for another four years and then finally arrived in Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, in October of 2021.”

When the couple returned to the states, Opsahl had the opportunity to take his father’s seat in Championship Off-Road. In order to have the needed time off to race, he’s been using a permissive temporary duty status program where he can have fun in the mud while helping Air Force recruiters.  The program is called WEAR--We Are All Recruiters.

“I've already done the WEAR program for one race weekend and it was an absolute blast,” said Opsahl. “I participated in the big parade where everyone takes their race vehicles down the streets and then we all park in the middle of Main Street. I had at least 20 people sit in my truck and that gave me the opportunity to ‘get my foot in their door’ and talk about the Air Force in a non-threatening, no pressure environment.”

Recruiters said teaming up with Opsahl was vital for their recruiting effort.

“While he was participating in the WEAR program, he was able to continue his personal hobby of racing, as well as speaking with potential applicants who may be interested in a career in the U. S. Air Force,” said Master Sgt. Matthew Fabela, 347th Recruiting Squadron. “He was able to spend time with the recruiters at our designated booth and speak with numerous spectators of all ages. He shared his story about the Air Force, as well as explaining the ability to still follow his extracurricular activities, while still being active duty.”

According to Air Force Recruiting Service guidelines, a WEAR event is an event where the interaction of Air Force personnel educates and increases public awareness of the Air Force and could potentially provide numerous leads for recruiters.

In Opsahl’s case, it was even better that the Air Force could bring a hometown hero to the racing crowd.

 “It was cool that folks were much more relaxed talking to me because I’m a ‘local boy’ who is a racer and not a recruiter,” Opsahl said. “People saw me sharing stories about my time with other older generations and that got them to come closer and pretend like they weren't eavesdropping, but it at least planted more seeds in them.”

The professional UTV racer understood his audience and a personal connection to them.  This also helped him help recruiters with engaging the crowd.

“I got to help teach the recruiters a bit about the Wisconsin culture and how it's different than the rest of the U.S.,” said Opsahl.  “In Wisconsin culture, it's generally family members that will push for their kids to join the military, and if the parents or grandparents are not on-board with the Air Force, there will be a 0% chance that the kid will even look at the Air Force as an option. I got fathers of the Army and Marines to agree that maybe the Air Force would be better for their daughters than other branches.”

Opsahl hopes his insight on his experience growing up in the area helped recruiters think of the parents and grandparents as key influencers. Meanwhile, he hopes he can stand out even more as an Airman if he can make a custom race suit.

“I think if we can tap into that market, it'll help show people that U.S. military members are just regular people and talking to a recruiter isn't an end all to be all, as in they are under no obligation to join,” he said.

Once the crowd discovered which uniformed member was their local racer, Opsahl said autograph sessions ramped up.  He said the sessions get “crazy amounts of people and the lines are super long.”

His fame also garnered him a chance to be in a commercial with the Champ Off-Road series, and they expressed interest in doing another one.

“It's only been one race weekend and I'm already in love with the WEAR program,” said Opsahl. “The amount of support that the Recruiting Squadron and the Air Force have given me has blown me away and I will be forever grateful.”

“Talking to all the people, hearing their stories, joking around with them, enlightening a ton of folks, that's all just been the best time for me. The Air Force has been great to me, and I'm glad that I'm able to give something back,” he said. “I saw several of those people later in the week at the Air Force stand talking to the recruiters so that was awesome.”

To learn more about the WEAR program or to apply visit www.recruiting.af.mil/WEAR

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