- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2007

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Let’s face it. No matter whether you love ‘em or loathe ‘em, Hummers are the Tonka Trucks of today’s youth, and the military Humvee that sees duty in war zones around the globe is also seen regularly on the nightly news, A Hummer model is even a free toy item in Mac Donald’s Happy Meal designed for children. And, although the two generals — A.M. General and General Motors — have halted production of the civilian super-sized H1, at the Hummer Driving Academy, you can still step into this supersize version, its medium-size sibling, the Hummer H2, or the baby of the lineup, the Hummer H3. One hitch, though — you have to be a Hummer owner.

Hummer’s Driving Academy is located in South Bend, Ind., at the headquarters, test facility and assembly line of A.M. General, the maker of the military Humvee. The academy is designed as a way to increase the skill and confidence of participants in four-wheel-drive techniques, while maximizing the talents of the Hummer models.

The school sits on a 320-acre campus, with an “infield” set up with technical obstacles, such as 22-inch vertical walls, 30 inches of water, and 40 percent side slopes, as well as a forest with 15 miles of wooded trails that range from easy to extreme, with mud, water and rock track to tackle. In addition to the driving exercises on the off-road test course, participants also practice vehicle-recovery techniques; mapping, navigation and global positioning system (GPS) skills; as well as trip preparation and field repairs, depending on the course selection.

The four-day H1, three-day H2 and two-day H3 programs are designed to prepare Hummer owners for safe and off-road experiences, with a student/instructor ratio of two-to-one. “This program can prepare any Hummer owner for a positive off-road experience with their vehicle,” says Bill Thompson, A.M. General director of fleet sales and commercial vehicles and creator of the Hummer Driving Academy. “The classes and hands-on driving techniques provided by the Academy staff benefit both novices and experienced owners, alike,” Mr. Thompson said.

“The Hummer Driving Academies are not meant to be sales tools, but rather a relationship-building opportunity with our owners to teach the safe and responsible use of the awesome capabilities of a Hummer,” Mr. Thompson said. For more Information, go to:www.Hummerdrivingacademy.com

Hummer is associated with Tread Lightly, a nonprofit land ethics program started by the U.S. Forest Service in 1985. A membership to Tread Lightly is included with the cost of the academy programs, which also includes lodging and meals and transportation throughout the program. For more information, go to www.treadlightly.org.

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