JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
The Air Force Cycling Team completed a 500-mile trek across Iowa on road bicycles July 30, 2022, traveling as part of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, or RAGBRAI, ending in Lansing, Iowa.
For 27 years, the Air Force Cycling Team, or AFCT, has participated in RAGBRAI initially as Team Aim High, a fast-paced, high-flying competitive sports team.
“The team evolved its mission from riding fast to helping people and sharing the Air Force story,” said Trey Munn, AFCT executive director. “We are known now as the Air Force Cycling Team. We are Air Force and Space Force ambassadors and 'Guardian Angels of The Road.'”
The 2022 RAGBRAI team totaled 105 riders plus 15 support crew members. The team mixture, 70% active duty and 30% retirees, includes members from 11 regional teams consisting of active duty, Guard, Reserve, Space Force, Air Force civilians, retirees and family members.
Munn has been a part of the AFCT for seven years and a cyclist for about 10 years.
“RAGBRAI is a fantastic way to talk about the Air Force,” Munn said. “To talk about where you come from and to find common connections with the people of Iowa.”
The team members also engage with RAGBRAI riders about Air Force and Space Force opportunities, experiences and culture in general. For the week, everyone on the team is an ambassador and recruiter.
“Most of my knowledge about RAGBRAI came from other members of the San Antonio team, YouTube videos by civilians, and a couple of AFCT videos,” said Col. Jeff Pixley, 737th Training Group commander. “This experience has exceeded all my expectations. The Air Force’s reputation is phenomenal here.”
“This is my first RAGBRAI, and I’ve learned a lot about mechanical fixes to bicycles, such as making single speeds out of regular bikes. It has been a fast learning curve,” said Airman 1st Class Ivan Rodrigo Vargas Ponce, 97th Logistical Readiness Squadron air transportation journeyman. “RAGBRAI is not a race, it’s a journey. I decided to join the team because we are helping others.”
Col. Samuel Spear, Air Force Medical Corps, Hearing Center of Excellence branch chief, participated in his third RAGBRAI with the team.
“I would be fully supportive of anybody joining and I’ve also tried to encourage some of my ENT colleagues to consider joining the team,” Spear said. “We’ve had many positive interactions this week with everybody thanking us for our service and helping them out.”
The business side of AFCT is getting the entire team through the week at RAGBRAI. The planning, logistics, and day-to-day management involve several people. Retired Chief Master Sgt. Jerry Cromer, AFCT deputy director, says he handles administrative issues, and community relations opportunities as well as helping the executive director as needed.
“There’s 120 of us here who have opinions on how to run things best. I’m the one they bring those to and provide the background as to the in/outs [reasons],” Cromer said. “For my first RAGBRAI, I came here to ride my bike. Now on my seventh, I keep returning to serve the citizens.”
“My experiences this week are unbelievable, and my regional team has accomplished many PRs [personal records] to this point,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Dwyer, 340th Flying Training Group, 97th Training Squadron, and Oklahoma team lead. “During RAGBRAI, they completed three metric century rides (62.5 miles) and one century ride (100 miles) on their first-year cycling.”
Capt. Jonathan Campbell, 1st Space Operations Squadron space operations officer, mentioned he was nervous coming into RAGBRAI because he had not put the miles in according to the training plan.
“We had some tough fixes like a flat that took four people, with tire levers and breaking about three or four of them, over an hour to fix,” Campbell said. “Overall, it’s been a positive experience. I’m glad I had the opportunity to go, especially with the Air Force team, because of how people look at us, seek us out, acknowledge us and thank us. I think being part of the team has made it better.”
“For over 25 years, the AFCT has always been a great example of teamwork. We display service before self, being those guardian angels of the road. That’s what we provide RAGBRAI by representing the military, but also what our Airmen and Guardians do,” said Lt. Col. Kristen Duncan, Secretary of the Air Force, Public Affairs Office 75th Anniversary lead. “When deployed, we all come together to support the team. I think that is what has changed. Now we have a bigger purpose, to be those ambassadors on the road.”
This RAGBRAI was Duncan’s fourth, and first since 2007. When asked to compare then and now, she said there is an organized purpose to what we do now, and we’ve excelled at it. She commented that everyone loves the Air Force team, they look for us, and then they’re all clapping for us at the end of the week.
“During every RAGBRAI, you feel like you’re just in the best of America because people are so kind and considerate,” Duncan said.
“I could never be a part of RAGBRAI and not be on the AFCT because I want to talk about the Air Force. The best part about being in the military is being a part of something larger than yourself,” Duncan added. “Also, it’s that teamwork that so many folks do not have. That’s why I think this is great for the people that are riding across the state of Iowa. They all have a sense of purpose and common thread.”
This year the Air Force celebrates its 75th Anniversary on Sept. 18, and for 75 years, it has been serving anytime and anywhere globally, even in Iowa.
The AFCT is hosting the inaugural Air Force Heritage Memorial to Memorial Ride, or M2M, ride in September 2022. This first-of-its-kind ride will celebrate the legacy of air travel, starting at the Wright Brothers Memorial in North Carolina and ending at the Air Force Memorial in Washington, D.C., on the Air Force’s birthday.
For more information, visit https://afcycling.com/m2m-ride/.