By Capt. Philip Cortez, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 22, 2016
An airman from the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing shakes hands with Scotty 2 Hotty Aug. 10, 2016, during the Ringside Salute II tour at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. Scotty 2 Hotty and five other entertainers paid a visit to the base to thank deployed members for their service and sacrifices. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Philip Cortez)
Members of the Ringside Salute II team pose for a group photo at the base’s MWR facility the Drop Zone Aug. 10, 2016, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. The 386th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron teamed up with Armed Forces Entertainment to bring these entertainers to the base and spend time with deployed members. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Philip Cortez)
The Drop Zone was the site of a rough and tumble encounter with professional wrestlers during the Ringside Salute II. Members of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing had the pleasure of meeting five professional wrestlers last week for a question and answer session followed by an autograph meet and greet. The Ringside Salute II event featured professional wrestlers Chris Melendez, Shane “Hurricane” Helms, Melina Nava, Mr. Anderson, and Scotty 2 Hotty.
Armed Forces Entertainment along with the 386th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron coordinated to bring the professional wrestlers for multiple visits here and throughout the area of responsibility. Armed Forces Entertainment was founded in 1951 and provides visits from celebrity entertainers to troops stationed overseas. Each of the celebrity wrestlers volunteered to be part of the tour and felt it was important to come and see the troops in person as a way of showing their gratitude.
“What the troops are doing for us and the risks they are taking motivated me to volunteer and join the tour,” stated Nava, an active WWE wrestler from 2001-2011. “So far I love the experience and the energy here is strong. Everyone we have met stands together as a team.”
One of the highlights of the Ringside Salute II was the addition of Army veteran Chris Melendez to the touring roster. Melendez lost his left leg in 2006 while serving as an infantryman in Iraq and today wrestles professionally with various organizations in the U.S. He joined the Army after witnessing the 9/11 attacks in person while living in lower Manhattan.
“I always wanted to be a professional wrestler and serve my country,” stated Melendez. “Wrestling in the ring gives me a different perspective and allows me to contribute in a different way to raise the morale of the troops.”
The Ringside Salute II drew a large crowd to the Drop Zone and allowed members to meet the stars of the squared circle. Capt. Kyle Draper, 386th Expeditionary Maintenance Group, felt the experience helped increase morale for his fellow Marauders.
“It was really cool to meet all these wrestlers that we have only seen on TV,” stated Draper. “It definitely helps increase morale and brings a sense of pride to meet a fellow veteran and wrestler in Chris Melendez.”
While the line to get autographs was long, the men and women of the Rock felt the wait was worth it. 1st Lt. Ethan El-Attrache, 386 EMXG, waited patiently to meet the various wrestlers.
“I was pleasantly surprised at the number of big names from wrestling who made the trip to the Rock,” stated El-Attrache. “They definitely showed their appreciation of our service by traveling over 7000 miles to visit with us.”