Our society thrives off of entertainment, with the most attention being given to whatever entertainment is the most heart pounding. We spend two hours sitting enthralled as we watch a superhero soar across the silver screen, hold our breath with anticipation as the leading character attempts to deactivate the bomb that will kill thousands, and inwardly cheer as our favorite actor builds up his junkyard find into a promised ten second car. But once the end credits roll, the adrenaline and inspiration felt is over as well. That is, unless you’re someone like Technical Sergeant Richard Durstine. TSgt. Durstine has spent his life doing what many are only brave enough to experience from their theater seats; risking his life countless times to aid and protect whomever is in need. This article could continue on at length about how he rescued fallen troops at his own risk on foreign soil, how he spends his days selflessly rushing to save others from all things ranging from burning buildings, to crumpled cars, to chemical disasters, and even deadly entrapment…but we aren’t going to talk about that. No, instead, the team at Desert Street Scene sat down with TSgt. Durstine to hear how his fifteen years of service in the Air Force has impacted his perception of the car scene, and to find out how he has impacted it.

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     Though Richard has always enjoyed pushing things to their extremes, it wasn’t until he was stationed in Mississippi in 2000 that his love for speed began to transcend into the automotive passion that he has today. After having spent time building up his car, he and a fellow military firefighter began to seek out auto clubs to experience the scene with. However, they had a difficult time finding any that didn’t centralize around illegal activities that would land two airmen into more trouble than they were looking for. Eventually, others were found that were also looking for a crew that they could tear apart an engine or roll to events with, and at that time a team was born. It quickly grew and spread like wild fire from Mississippi to Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana, saturating the south in Team Inferno. Unfortunately, just at the club’s highest peak, TSgt. Durstine received orders that transferred him to Germany. Being the automotive enthusiast he is though, he did not allow his transfer to end his role with the team, and he began expanding the club overseas as well, creating chapters in Germany, Luxemburg, France, and Belgium, some of which still hold these chapters today fifteen years later.

     While stationed in Germany and continuing to build his club, TSgt. Durstine happily took the time to experience the local car culture. Though there were some communication issues due to the fact that so many different languages were spoken, the common passion for speed and love for cars was universal, allowing him the opportunity to be completely accepted into the foreign auto scene…and the fact that he brought his tricked out SRT4 (a rarity in Germany at the time) certainly didn’t hurt his approval rating among the Germans either. During his time in Europe, though he did witness a friend have their car impounded and crushed for racing by the local authorities, and his car was set on fire by an angry German who didn’t feel he should have lost a race to a “Neon”, his experience was still better there than it was while stationed in the Middle East, where his automotive passion was heavily deprived. With little opportunity to leave base, he was unable to submerge himself in the automotive culture as he had in Germany, and was instead forced to live off of the skeletal remains of the scene in Iraq. While in convoy, his mind would wander over the enjoyment that must have been felt by the driver who had left the F1 tracks on the road, and his heart would drop as he drove past Mercedes and M3s rusting away because their owner’s lack of desire to do a simple repair, such as changing a tire.

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     Thankfully, his deployment was short lived though and he has been stationed at Luke Air Force base for a few years now, giving him the chance to delve back into the car scene once again. He’s taken advantage of the fact that he has witnessed so many different versions of automotive culture across Europe and here in the U.S. by meshing various pieces from each scene together in order to bring his own style to the valley. His unique flare can be seen in the consulting work he does for various automotive teams and organizations in the valley, as well as in his crew, AscensionAZ, where he serves in the position of Vice President. Adding yet another item to his long list of automotive experiences, endeavors, and accomplishments, Richard recently created an automotive council with the purpose of bringing the crews of the west side together in an attempt to build up club relations and communication. Even though the life he has led has provided him with the opportunity to view the auto scene from a different angle than most of us may, ultimately, everything he does centers around his love for speed and his great passion for all things automotive, much like many of us. In fact, when asked about his obsession for the adrenaline rush that only a fast drive can give, he replied, “If your heart isn’t beating you aren’t living, so the way I see it, the faster your heart beats the more alive you are”.

     As a Fire Instructor 3, you might find TSgt. Durstine at work running training classes meant to educate the troops under him on the newest, safest, and most effective strategies, or if you catch him in his Battalion Chief role, you’ll see him on the scene leading an emergency rescue. But where you and I would see him is at a meet, blending in with the crowd and most likely driving his daily, a 2010 Kia Forte that has been modified to break as many records as it does necks, as he continues to build his 1992 Acura Integra. Looking at him you may never have guessed the professional leader he is, all that he has accomplished, or the many lives that have been saved because of him, but you would know instantly that he is one of us: a petrolhead with a true love for the scene. So when looking for your next source of inspiration or just that quick glimpse of a hero, remember that you needn’t go to a theater for it, just a local meet, because as we learned from this interview…Superman drives a Kia.

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Article by: Kat Montgomery
Photos by: Dennis Minter

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