It's not about endurance; it's about courage and sacrifice
By Master Sgt. Joshua Woods, 10th Air Force Public Affairs
/ Published September 30, 2010
NAS Fort Worth JRB, Texas -- The sun was starting to heat up the morning sky while many checked and double checked their equipment.
More than 10,000 cyclists snapped their helmet straps and checked their bikes anticipating the start to a long race across the Food Capital of the World that would test their endurance.
Approximately 150 of the Air Force's finest with several from the Air Force Reserve were part of the Air Force Cycling Team or AFCT who competed in the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, better known as RAGBRAI.
This event was not only about the ride with others, but also became a testament of AFCT members' remarkable courage and self sacrifice represented during the race.
Lt. Col. Michael Rothermel, the 610th Security Forces Squadron commander here and a first year AFCT cyclist, admitted the exhilaration he felt before the race was electric.
He said although the cyclists try to prepare for these types of events, usually by day three or four several get tired and accidents begin to happen.
"You see a lot of accidents and you see a lot of newer riders. There is an etiquette doing this gig but there's no police out there. It's a bit of the wild west," said Rothermel.
Early morning on the fourth day of the ride, Rothermel said part of his team approached an accident along the roadside helping to assist the sheriff on duty.
Luckily, one of the cyclists who stopped to aid was a trauma nurse assigned to Lackland AFB. She shouted to her team members that the cyclist involved in the accident was in serious condition and needed a lot of assistance, recounted the colonel.
He said the other AFCT team members began to use their Air Force training and formed a v-wedge in the road to direct traffic away from the accident site.
Even though the AFCT team's sacrifice and hard work to assist the injured cyclist resulted in a bittersweet ending, the team's quick reaction and training won big success points in community relations.
The colonel explained that part of their AFCT training is to never leave a person on the side of the road, whether they are hurt or having mechanical issues.
The amount of support the team received, said Rothermel, from other cyclists and the local community was extraordinary.
"I was struck by how their cool, calm, and collected manner in crisis was as reflexive as breathing," said Lindsey Rasmussen, a cyclist also competing in RAGBRAI.
She added, "I am proud to have individuals of such caliber protecting my country, and I am reminded that their skills and expertise are not only needed abroad, but also needed here in the most unexpected places."
Sometimes as Airmen we tend to take for granted our training and how we team up to accomplish tasks which sometimes we consider as normal, said Rothermel.
"What's unique about the situation is the level of training we get that we call common and how we forget we have skill sets and capabilities we take for granted until you find yourself in one of those situations requiring some action that you may not fully realize we possess."
The AFCT team understood service before self is not only one of the core values as Airmen we should all exhibit, but an action we should carry throughout our daily lives.