The renowned Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders joined former Cowboys’ defensive tackle Chad Hennings and the Cowboys’ mascot Rowdy for a meet and greet with Fort Hood Soldiers and families Jan. 23 at Sprocket Auto Repair Center.
Sprocket teamed up with the Cowboys and Caliber Collision to highlight the auto body repair shop’s Changing Lanes program, which is designed to help Soldiers transition out of the military and into civilian jobs. The Cowboys were also promoting the Dallas Cowboys Military Combine, which will take place March 20 and April 3 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The combine encourages troops and first responders from across the states of Texas and Oklahoma to test their athletic ability through a series of drills, before choosing a male and female winner. The two winners will receive a trophy and be given the opportunity to announce a Cowboys’ draft pick during the NFL Draft.
“Today, we’re here to bring awareness to Soldiers who are transitioning out of the military,” Doug Wilberg, technical director for Changing Lanes, said. “We use this location to recruit for our program and so far, it’s been a great success.”
In 2017, Caliber Collision started the Changing Lanes program helping Soldiers transition out of military life, and three years later, they have seen over 200 graduates earn jobs in the career field.
“For me, as a veteran, this is an opportunity to honor the active duty and veteran communities,” Hennings said. “To partner with Caliber, helping veterans transition to civilian life when they separate, is a great honor.”
Hennings, an Air Force veteran aviator who flew an A-10 Warthog fighter jet while serving twice in the Gulf War and is a three-time Super Bowl champion with the Cowboys. He attended the Air Force Academy and served a little more than four years active duty and another 10 years in the reserve. While he was playing for the Dallas Cowboys, Hennings was still in the active reserve.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan McManus, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, and his 4-year-old son Damon are lifelong Cowboys fans and were excited to meet Hennings. When asked about his son’s love for the game, McManus responded without hesitation.
“The only thing he asked Santa for Christmas was a Cowboys jersey,” McManus said. “He says that he wants to play football for the Cowboys, and if he keeps practicing like he does, I know he’ll make it.”
Military service members were given the opportunity to take pictures with the former Super Bowl champion, as well as the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders during the event.
“A lot of the experience I gathered as an Air Force fighter pilot translated to my time with the Dallas Cowboys, so I’m grateful to have the opportunity to give back to the Armed Forces,” Hennings said.
Changing Lanes is a no-cost, 18-week collision repair industry training program for military service members. New classes start every seven weeks, with job placement opportunities offered at one of the Caliber locations upon successful completion. Upon placement, graduates will receive tools valued at $12,000 and a Caliber mentor to continue their career path.
“Soldiers go through a lot, so for us to give back to them, it’s quite humbling,” Wilberg said. “We provide for them because they’ve provided us with the blanket of freedom that we’ve operated under since I’ve been a child.”