Nine members of Team Dakota participated in the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, cycling roughly 468 miles, July 21-28.
Of the approximately 20,000 participants, Team Dakota and 117 other Air Force Cycling Team members represented their service during the ride across the state. Though these Airmen strove through their own athletic endeavors, they were also dedicated members of the RAGBRAI team and helped their fellow riders from around the world with repairs as bikes broke along the way.
“We did a great job this year,” 1st Lt. Erin Powell, a 742nd Missile Squadron missileer at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., commented after the race’s completion. “We’ve helped a lot of people.”
Besides fixing bikes, the Air Force mission at RAGBRAI was to help with recruiting efforts. The riders made themselves visible to many people and let them know that the Air Force is here not only to reattach chains and cassettes, but to serve.
“We are out here to let people know the Air Force has a lot of opportunities for individuals,” said Master Sgt. James Brown, a Wyoming National Guard member. “We love to get out here and ride, but we know we still have a job to do.”
The military cyclists met many new people while out on the open road. Through this unique event, they were able to speak with those who were curious about what a life of service entails, answer any questions and talk about their own experiences as military members.
“We talked to so many people, it blew my mind, and it was interesting to see what people thought about the Air Force,” Powell said. “It’s a lot of fun to interact … and show them we are more than just a uniform. I love to get out into communities and show what the Air Force contributes.”
With so many people seeing Airmen cycling by, RABRBRAI can offer recruiters a tool to help them reach out to individuals interested in joining the Air Force.
“There are 130 Air Force Jerseys out on the road,” estimated Master Sgt. Josh Taylor, a 343rd Recruiting Squadron battlefield Airmen combat support recruiter. “It’s a great way for our Airmen to tell the Air Force story and show the human element of our service. It’s great to see our people working with the community and helping showcase what were all about.”
The Air Force Cycling Team was also able to help fix approximately 2,600 bicycles during the race. Helping other cyclists can be satisfying to some, and Brown was one who fit into that category.
“We were all over the place this week, changing tires, fixing chains and just talking to people,” Brown said. “We have hopefully had a positive impact on people from all across the globe, and I hope that we left them (with) a good impression about the Air Force.”
There were bike repairs aplenty for the Air Force Cycling Team to help with, such as that of civilian rider Kim Whitesell.
“They were helpful and they stopped without hesitation,” Whitesell, said. “They displayed the highest level of professionalism and turned a bad moment into a great one. If it wasn’t for them, so many riders would not have finished. I greatly appreciate all of their help during the week.”
Completing a 400 mile ride is no cakewalk. It can take a lot of endurance to get back in the saddle day after day and hammer out more than 50 miles each time. To prepare, the Air Force Cycling Team members each rode 1,000 miles before RAGBRAI – some going above and beyond and racking up over 3,000 miles.
“I loved every minute of it, but that doesn’t mean it was easy.” Brown said. “I had to really buckle down and give it my best shot because I wasn’t going to let the distance and heat beat me.”
Endurance rides can be challenging, and Team Dakota finished the ride a little sore but with smiles on their faces.
“I was so happy to get out here and do this,” Brown said. “I’m tired and sore, but I’m going to do this again next year. This is one of the best ways to get out, meet new people and show what the Air Force is all about. I think more people should get out from around the service and do this because it’s so rewarding to help other people and wear the Air Force Cycling Team jersey while you’re doing it.”
To find out more information about the Air Force Cycling Team visit their website at https://afcycling.com.