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Around The Fleet

Starting as a Team, Finishing as a Team

USS Makin Island Races to the Finish Line

Between the deafening scream of air wrenches, teams of Sailors participate in timed organized chaos. Seconds tick away - and every second counts. As Sailors perform their assigned task, the sweat builds, each Sailor careful not to waste time wiping it away.

Trust becomes the only thing that matters; trust in their fellow teammates to follow through. There is no time for a second look, no time for micro managing, and no time to doubt one another. With finesse, 10 bodies fly around a professional racecar, on auto pilot and repeat, as the seconds tick away.

For the members of USS Makin Island's team, picking up an air tool and changing a tire in less than five seconds is not something they do every day, nor is sprinting around the hood of a racecar while their teammates rush to jack up the other side.

But it is something they are surprisingly good at.

The 3rd annual Military Pit Crew Challenge (MPCC), part of Coronado Speed Festival at Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI), pitted teams like the Makin Island against other commands, and against the clock, to perform NASCAR-style pit stops. The Coronado Speed Festival, which began in 1997, brings car enthusiasts and Sailors together to celebrate their love of the internal combustion engine.

During the challenge, each team is pitted against one another to correctly change out all four tires on a professional racecar. After all four tires have been correctly installed; the teams must push the car across the finish line faster than the opposing team.

"It's a great team building exercise," said Billy Rhine, the lead event coordinator of MPCC. "Even if one or two of the team members are behind in their pit stop, we have a 50-foot push to the finish line. They start as a team, they finish as a team."

The concept of teamwork is not lost on the members of the Makin Island team.

"We really feel the one team, one fight mentality," said Engineman 2nd Class Florinda Sevilla, assigned to Makin Island. "It's all about camaraderie."

Regardless of where a Sailor is assigned, when it comes to the competition, the entire Makin Island team comes together to make their pit stop as fast as possible.

"It doesn't matter what department you're in," said Lt. Jon Yu, assigned to the supply department of Makin Island. "If you have the same goal ... it's all about teamwork and making it happen."

The week prior to the competition the teams practiced with professional cars and the tools they would be using later in the competition. Some participants competed having never picked up a tire wrench in their entire life.

"I was never really a car guy," said Aviation Boatswains Mate 3rd Class Kyle Tibbitts, assigned to the Makin Island. "This is all brand new to me. I learned how to change tires really fast and familiarized myself with all the tools."

After spending one day training during the previous week, the Makin Island team set their sights on the MPCC trophy. Only 14 teams stood in their way, and they were all gunning for the same finish line.

"I'm looking to win," said Tibbitts, as he watched other teams make their runs. "If we keep our mistakes minimal, we should be pretty good."

With races coming down to tenths of a second, a three-second penalty for a loose lug nut or misplaced air hose can cost the team the entire race.

Luckily for the Makin Island team, their first race had no mistakes, advancing them to the second heat with a time of 36.8 seconds.

In addition to the pit crew, Makin Island also had one member inside the car acting as the driver to wait for their team to give them the signal to control the car during the final push.

Sevilla said her nerves rattled as she sat in the driver's seat waiting for the right time to release the brake pedal.

Knowing it comes down to seconds, the team pushed as fast as they could, crossing the line within seconds of the other team.

Although they weren't first to cross, the Makin Island team waited for penalties to be assessed. Just one penalty from either team could change the outcome of the score.

With the scores tallied, both groups of Sailors waited for the judge's announcement.

For the Makin Island team, the call signaled the end of the competition. Losing by tenths of a second, they were eliminated during the second heat. Undeterred by their loss, each member of the team said they plan to attend next year's MPCC with hopes of taking home the trophy in 2014.

Because that's another aspect of teamwork; never giving up.