Need a host who can talk policy while lifting weights with 20 soldiers, get behind the controls of a robotic arm and hand out T-shirts featuring his chiseled physique and a catchy catchphrase?
You're really down to just the one guy.
Arnold Schwarzenegger visited U.S. soldiers in Kuwait late last month, stopping by camps Arifjan and Buehring to film parts of "Years of Living Dangerously," a documentary series that will air on the National Geographic Channel in October. Among the highlights: A two-hour workout session Wednesday at Arifjan that included the unveiling of the bodybuilder/actor/governor/advocate/quote-machine's "Come with me if you want to lift" T-shirt, with proceeds benefiting Schwarzenegger's foundation for after-school programs.
During the workout, the VIP guest spoke with Sgt. 1st Class Mike Clemency, a civil affairs noncommissioned officer with Army Central who has worked with the service's renewable energy products, as part of the documentary process.
Speaking with Army Times on Monday via phone, Clemency said he's still processing the fact that he'd gotten to meet one of his heroes.
"I was completely star-struck when he walked into the building," said the soldier, who served as a petroleum supply specialist with 3rd Infantry Division during the Iraq invasion. "He came in, and I'll do my best Arnold impersonation, he was like (Arnold voice) 'Who's ready to lift? Who's ready to do it?'
"No one said anything, so I'm like, 'I'm ready to lift.' "
Clemency knocked out some front squats, recalling that the seven-time Mr. Olympia called his form "perfect." They did bent-over rows. They discussed renewable fuels. Clemency got a selfie and recorded a video with the ex-California governor to send home to his wife.
"I was able to keep it together, but I'm not going to lie, the inside of me was just ready to explode," said the NCO, whose fandom stretched from "Pumping Iron" to more recent Schwarzenegger fare. "He was just completely down to earth, very approachable about everything."
Squats to solar power
The series will highlight some of Army Central's work toward cleaner energy use, including modular building materials with increased insulation that keeps down power costs, the replacement of diesel-powered light towers with solar power, and a solar-powered, off-the-grid network that can provide the energy needed to run small facilities within a camp — one example, an Army Central spokesman said, powers an installation's fast-food locations.
"I think it is really unbelievable and so fantastic that the military is now thinking about making some of the bases green," Schwarzenegger said in materials provided by the Army.
Schwarzenegger's a producer on documentary project, now filming its second season, alongside Hollywood moguls James Cameron and Jerry Weintraub. Other presenters include Jessica Alba, Matt Damon and Harrison Ford.
When he wasn't filming eco-friendly materials, Schwarzenegger took time for a lunch with soldiers at Camp Buehring, where his star power and generosity were both on display.
"It took him 40 minutes to go 100 meters because of how many selfies, and he signed autographs for everybody," Army Central spokesman Capt. Pete Mrvos said. "He never turned anyone away, and he always made sure that he took the time to thank all the soldiers that were there. It was really fantastic."
Schwarzenegger participated in 10 promotions and one re-enlistment during his time in Kuwait, the last ceremony belonging to Spc. James Berg, a wheeled vehicle mechanic in B Company, 299th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.
"I re-enlisted for two more years of active duty service and he was a part of the ceremony," Berg said in materials provided by the Army. "He helped hold the flag and congratulated me on making the choice to further serve my country. ... It meant a lot to me that he took the time to be a part of this major event in my career. It was very impactful on me personally and I will remember it for a long time."
The "Terminator" star also tried his hand at some Army robotics — namely, controlling the interrogation arm on a Buffalo mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle.
Sgt. John Stevens, with B Company, 82nd Engineer Battalion, helped Schwarzenegger through about a 15-minute run with the MRAP, footage of which was taken for the documentary.
"He was pretty humble," Stevens said of his 68-year-old trainee. "He didn't get frustrated – it was all equipment he'd never used before. The arm is not like anything else.
"He was good. He wasn't perfect. It was like training a new private, pretty much."
Schwarzenegger posed for more selfies and signed more autographs before being whisked to his next shoot, Stevens said.
"When you're an immigrant like me, you know and you can appreciate the great work that has been done over hundreds of years to protect our country and to make it a safe place," the VIP guest said. "So I always want to say thank you to [the military]."
Kevin Lilley is the features editor of Military Times.