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Outdoor activities abound

Airmen from Ellsworth ride horseback through Custer State Park during a trip organized by the 28th Force Support Squadron Outdoor Recreation office in Custer, S.D., Aug. 26, 2012. The two-hour trail ride offered scenic views through hills and wooded areas, and is one of many events Outdoor Recreation schedules to provide Airmen opportunities to enjoy the local area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Ashley J. Woolridge/Released)

Airmen from Ellsworth ride horseback through Custer State Park during a trip organized by the 28th Force Support Squadron Outdoor Recreation office in Custer, S.D., Aug. 26, 2012. The two-hour trail ride offered scenic views through hills and wooded areas, and is one of many events Outdoor Recreation schedules to provide Airmen opportunities to enjoy the local area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Ashley J. Woolridge/Released)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- The Black Hills and surrounding areas of South Dakota are full of activities to do and sites to see. To help Airmen take advantage of the splendor outside the gate, the 28th Force Support Squadron Outdoor Recreation office offers information and activities designed to open people's eyes to the majestic Black Hills.

Rolla Roe, 28th FSS Outdoor Recreation programmer, has been working with the office for nine years. Formerly stationed at Ellsworth as part of the 28th Security Forces Squadron, Roe knows firsthand the importance of appreciating all that the area has to offer.

"The most important part of what I do is getting Airmen and their families out into the community," Roe said. "It's important to show them how nice it is to be able to enjoy the Black Hills, and not to mope about being stationed in South Dakota."

Outdoor Recreation offers a broad range items and equipment for rent - from waverunners and bouncy castles, to camping equipment and snowmobiles - all at Airmen-friendly prices.

"We have a little bit of everything," Roe said. "I think we do a good job of providing Airmen with something to do that's inexpensive, and an alternative to drinking or staying in their dorm rooms playing video games."

One of the biggest ways the Outdoor Recreation staff helps Airmen enjoy their time at Ellsworth is by offering trips to various attractions, including parks and concert venues. These outings are free to single Airmen, and reasonably priced for all others.

Airman 1st Class Christopher Manning, 28th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller, recently participated in a two-hour horseback ride through the scenic Custer State Park.

"It was a good ride, since we were able to go up and down hills and not just across flat land," Manning said. "We got to see a lot of amazing scenery."

Manning has been assigned to Ellsworth for more than six months. Like many other Airmen, he rarely gets the chance to experience South Dakota.

"At the end of the month, money always seems to be tight," Manning said. "Sometimes, I go to the mall and hang out, or try to go see a movie. But since I don't have a car, I usually just watch TV or play video games in my dorm room."

The Texas native, who enjoys outdoor activities, said he had been horseback riding before, but that the trip to Custer was the first time he had utilized any of Outdoor Recreation's resources.

"I had always heard stories about how much fun these trips were," Manning said. "It seemed like a good idea to go, and it helped that they provided the transportation."

Roe said that anyone - not just young, single Airmen - can benefit from what the center has to offer.

"A lot of people don't know much about us, and that's a shame," Roe said. "I think this should be one of the first stops for married couples when they come to Ellsworth. We get a lot of positive feedback from people that rent equipment from us and go on our trips. Our prices are only a fraction of what people would pay downtown."

Roe added that his job allows him to participate in, as well as coordinate, outings and events for Outdoor Recreation.

"I set up lodging, tickets and meals, and I also help on the equipment rental side of the shop," Roe said. "I've been all over. I have the best job in the world."

Manning said he appreciates the services Outdoor Recreation provides and would recommend them to a friend.

"Trips like this bring Airmen together who may otherwise never have met," Manning said. "My advice to other Airmen would be to get out and do as much as you can. Invite your friends along and make some new ones."

For more information on Outdoor Recreation and upcoming events, call (605) 385-2997, or visit www.ellsworthfss.com.

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