News: Reservists shine at RAGBRAI
Story by Staff Sgt. Abigail Klein
OSKALOOSA, Iowa - As more than 35,000 cyclists roam the back roads of Iowa from Council Bluffs to the eastern coast during the seven-day 41st Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, bystanders can't help but notice the blur of 94 Air Force Cycling Team rider uniforms: what they won't immediately notice is how many are "citizen airmen."
As with most Air Force teams, the AFCT hosts a variety of Air Force members, many of them Reservists, who are back for the journey, some who are making the journey for the first time.
Among those making the journey for the first time is Master Sgt. Jerry Cromer, a surgical technician from the 301st Medical Squadron at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base - Carswell Field, Texas. Like most AFCT members, Cromer, who has been a rider for more than 20 years, heard about RAGBRAI through word of mouth.
"I had always been a mountain biker, and I had already done two triathlons, so I when I heard about it, I knew I had to do it," Cromer said.
Like most traditional Reservists, Cromer has a civilian job. When he isn't assisting Air Force surgeons, he fights fires in Dallas. Though he had to get permission from his unit and fire house to participate, Cromer said he looked forward to the opportunity to reach out to the local community while and educate people about the Air Force culture.
"I love cycling. This gives me the chance to do that, and to also see my impact on the community here. You don't always get an opportunity to do that," Cromer said.
This impact is often recounted to the airmen as they travel through the Iowa towns along their route, where the airmen are known for frequently stopping to assist any riders with anything from flat tires, to road injuries.
Lt. Col. Mike Rothermel, an assignment facilitator for the Air Force Reserve Personnel Center at Buckley AFB, Colo., said he keeps coming back because he loves riding and giving back to the community.
"I met a lady, who said, 'Oh you're Air Force! You helped us so much last year. Thank you.' She went right into telling me that she would be down at her son's BMT [Basic Military Training] graduation," Rothermel said. "Upon hearing this, I couldn't help but ask if their willingness to help people last year had something to do with her son's enlistment, and she said enthusiastically, 'Absolutely.' Just wearing [the uniform] and the connection you have with people, you wouldn't normally get that."
Whether changing an inner tube or a life, the citizen airmen continue to capitalize on the 400-mile platform RAGBRAI provides to showcase the Air Force mission one tire revolution at a time.
Air Force Cycling Team membership is open to all Reserve, Guard, active duty, retired and civilian airmen and members of their families. For more information on the team, visit airforcecyclingteam.com