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Monster Jam: Army veteran Apache crew chief now behind wheel

A video screen grab shows a Soldier Fortune Black Ops in a freestyle event at the 2016 Monster Jam in Albany, N.Y.

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By Mike Brudenell | Detroit Free Press (Tribune News Service) | Published: January 30, 2016

When your job is being the crew chief of a U.S. Army Apache attack helicopter carrying Hellfire missiles, you’d better be on your game.

If your second career is a monster truck driver, well, the Apache likely taught you a great deal about preparation and execution.

Tony Ochs can speak to that.

Ochs, 30, is a combat veteran, serving 10 years in the military in South Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan. He provided special ops forces with transportation and arms on many dangerous missions.

Following an honorable discharge from the army, Ochs landed a job with Feld Entertainment, which promotes events such as Monster Jam, Energy Supercross, AMSOIL Arenacross and Marvel Universe Live, an action-packed arena extravaganza featuring super heroes, aerial motorcycle stunts and martial arts.

“I was crewing on the motorcycles,” Ochs said. “One of the Feld executives asked me what I wanted to do in the future. I said, ‘Drive a monster truck.’ He replied that that wasn’t farfetched at all.”

On Saturday night at Ford Field, Ochs will be doing just that, as Monster Jam rolls into the Motor City.

As it happens, Ochs will be at the wheel of Soldier Fortune Black Ops. The 1,500-horsepower camouflaged, tank-inspired monster truck is making its Detroit debut and paying tribute to the armed forces.

“I’m racing this truck for all the military boys and girls,” said Ochs, who was born in Oil City, Pa., and raised in Crown, Pa. “I’m absolutely so fortunate to be picked to drive this truck.”

As a youngster, Ochs spent his spare time competing in local demolition derbies, riding dirt bikes and “even racing tractors,” he recalled.

“In the army, we’d ride bulls when we got a chance,” said Ochs, who finished tied for third at Monster Jam last weekend in Houston. “I mean, real bulls.”

Ochs’ military training, he said, will serve him well at Ford Field as he battles the likes of Grave Digger, Dragon, Alien Invasion, Scarlet Bandit and a bunch of other monster trucks.

“In the military, the key under stress is to keep your wits about you and stay calm,” Ochs said. “The training and hands-on experience you get is invaluable in life after active duty. Preparation was pivotal to a good, safe mission. We prepare in much the same way in monster trucks. Safety for driver, crew and the fans is paramount.”

A monster truck is a formidable brute, capable of jumps, spins, flips and rollovers.

The Apache?

“I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of it, just leave it at that,” Ochs said. “It’s an awesome machine.”

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©2016 the Detroit Free Press
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