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Bikes Over Baghdad

Photograph By Andrew Hetherington for ESPN The Magazine

Because the soldiers work in eight-hour shifts, many are unable to make it to the main shows, which are typically held at night. So at each base, the riders perform smaller shows in the mornings or early afternoons. This morning's show features flatland rider Scott Powell (here, performing a rope-a-roni), Brian Kachinsky, Mykel Larrin, Jeremiah Smith and Morgan Wade. "I grew up riding BMX. We all did," says staff sergeant Ernesto Hubble, who came straight to the show after getting off duty at 8 a.m. "We all tried to do what these guys are doing. But we didn't make it. So I joined the Air Force instead."