Arriving at Fort Hood, a detailed security screening was our first reality check that we weren't in SoCal anymore. We were on the world's largest military base and we were here to photograph a custom truck owned by a Silver Star-recipient Staff Sergeant in the Army. Driving past M1 Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, we looked a little out of place in our 2010 Ram HD until we took a dirt side road and saw a 'bagged '08 Chevy Silverado awaiting its close-up. Giving it one final detail, Staff Sergeant William "Will" Payne had been waiting for this opportunity as long as he could remember. He told us, "I've always had a passion for trucks and I've wanted to own one that was cover-worthy." Only in America could two different worlds come clashing together with the common bond of custom trucks.
During our time with Will, we swapped stories of crazy photo shoots and our long road trip to Texas, while he humbly nodded and kept the real chaos of his military experiences to himself. Only after some prodding on our part, did Will tell us some of his stories. One of which changed his life forever. While on an operation in Sheik Maroof, a tough neighborhood of Baghdad nicknamed "Grenade Alley," an explosive-filled car sped into one of the squad's Bradley Fighting Vehicles and detonated-causing a huge explosion and setting the Bradley's rear gate ablaze. Capitalizing on the disabled Bradley, small arms fire began blasting down onto the street. Will recounts, "When I heard the concussion (of the explosion), I knew it was real and it was time to go." And go he did, as he set up his squad in strategic positions to provide cover fire, he grabbed Specialist Chase Ash and ran over to the burning Bradley. Using the strength of his 6-6, 290-pound frame, he ripped open the stuck top hatch and pulled all five soldiers out of the burning vehicle and lowered them down to Spc. Ash. "I didn't really have time to think about it," he tells us, "All the training just kicked in." Once the five men were in a safe position, Payne's squad teamed together and were able to evacuate the men from the hell hole and get them to the combat support hospital. "I owe everything to my squad," he was quick to tell us and just as we were impressed with his bravery and heroic efforts, so was the Army. Major General Pete Chiarelli made sure to attend the ceremony where Will's dad, a Dept. of the Army worker in Iraq at the time, awarded his son the Silver Star. This was our second reality check. As civilians, we take for granted what the brave men and women of our military do every single day.
Once the adrenaline had settled through our veins from Will's incredible story, we tried to focus on the job at hand-making a deserving man's dream come true. With an Abrams tank and Bradley in position, we aimed our cameras at his pride and joy. Built primarily in Southern California, the truck was 'bagged by HOT Motorsports using Ground Force spindles, Slam Specialties RE7 airbags, and Chris Alston's VariShocks. Out back, a KP Components six-link, with Watts link, Slam 'bags, and another set of VariShocks keep the frame on the ground. Tucking inside each fender are 24-inch Boss Motorsports 333 wheels wrapped in 295/35R24 Yokohama Advan tires. Each corner is controlled by a Dakota Digital air-ride system.