Bobsledder a member of National Guard
John Napier will race for his country in Vancouver. He might represent his nation in a different manner after that.
Shortly after being selected to the U.S. Olympic bobsled team on Sunday, the 23-year-old from Schenectady, N.Y., again said he has inquired about joining his National Guard unit in Afghanistan.
Napier is a sergeant with the Vermont National Guard, which earlier this month had more than 200 troops head to Indiana for training before deployment overseas. He has spoken several times in recent months about serving overseas, often saying that he remains "a soldier first."
Napier enlisted in the National Guard in 2007 and is a member of the Army's World Class Athlete Program, which helps provide him with support and training.
"It's kind of up in the air whether I will go with them or not," Napier said Sunday on a conference call with U.S. Olympic teammates. "I would like to and I have voiced my request to both my unit and to WCAP. Now it's a question of where I do more good. I'm doing well and successful, and can I be a better voice for WCAP over the next couple of years, or do I deploy with them for the next year?"
The World Class Athlete Program -- which is billed as a way for soldiers to reinforce a positive image of the military, plus serve as role models for others -- has helped send more than 140 soldiers to the Olympics since 1998, and Napier said he wouldn't be able to pursue bobsledding without the military's support.
He's hardly the first soldier to have success in bobsled; among others, Jill Bakken was a WCAP member when she won Olympic gold in 2002, reigning world four-man champion Steven Holcomb is a former WCAP slider, and 2010 Olympic bobsled driver Mike Kohn is a sergeant in the National Guard. Napier isn't even the only WCAP slider in his sled; Lt. Chris Fogt is part of his four-man team.
Napier has no idea if he'll be sent overseas.
"It's not up to me. It's out of my hands," Napier said. "But I'd like to serve my purpose in the Army. ... It's really up in the air as far as what I'll do after the Olympics."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press