by Staff Sgt. Abigail Klein
931st Air Refueling Group Public Affairs
6/15/2013 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- For
most people, the thought of biking hundreds of miles through unfamiliar
rugged territory is not only daunting, it's exhausting. For four
McConnell Airmen, this is how they will spend their Saturday mornings
for the next four weeks.
The Airmen are participating in the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride
Across Iowa. For the Air Force, the RAGBRAI gives Airmen a chance to
showcase the service's fitness culture and recruit for enlisted and
civilian positions in the Reserve, guard and active duty. When the
McConnell Team crosses the starting line July 21, 2013, it will mark the
19th year the Air Force has participated in the event, which originated
For Senior Master Sgt. Joseph Salomon, 931st Maintenance Squadron
Fabrication Flight chief, the race is a labor of love. Salomon has been
cycling for 12 years, and this is his second time participating on the
"[I began when] I was active duty in the Army in the late 1980s, and it
continued when I joined the Reserve program [in San Antonio]. In 2003 I
met up with some guys who were cycling," he said. "I was out riding one
day and the team captain from there mentioned the Air Force Cycling
team to me. "
During his first year on the cycling team, Salomon provided team
support, which gave him exposure to the RAGBRAI. The following year, he
rode with the team as a member. Despite a couple of medical setbacks in
the years following, Salomon later rode later with the Scott Air Force
Base, Ill., team, eventually ending up at McConnell, where he again
established a cycling team. Like his previous teams, the McConnell team
began through a mutual love of cycling.
"I met Tech. Sgt. Noel Heyer at a Christmas party when I got here in
2003," said Salomon. "He was excited and talked about getting a
McConnell team started."
Heyer, a support section technician assigned to the 931st, said his love of cycling predates his military career.
"I got a bike when I was 4 or 5 years old, and before I even went
outside, I took the training wheels off," he said. "I think my parents
were surprised, but I rode it that very first day and I've pretty much
been riding ever since."
Over the years, Heyer's hobby has led him all over the country. This is his first time to participate in the RAGBRAI.
In addition to individual cycling, the team, which also includes Tech.
Sgts. Paul Shattuck, 931st MXS Hydraulics Section Chief and Christopher
Peterson, 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron KC-135 Instrument and
Flight Control Systems specialist, the team performs a long distance
training ride each Saturday leading up to the event in July.
"We average 30 miles per day for a daily ride," said Salomon. "You have
to average 100 to 175 miles per week so when you get to the RAGBRAI and
you're doing 500 miles across Iowa over seven continuous days, it won't
be an issue because your body will be conditioned."
The mileage and challenge of finishing the race is part of what drew in Shattuck, who has been cycling since the early 1980s.
"The biggest challenge for me will be the 100-mile day," he said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge."
The logistics of the actual event are also important to consider, said Salomon.
"A lot of people think, 'Oh, we'll stay in a hotel.' That's not how it
is," he said. "You are going to break down your own camp and set it up,
while also prepping for your daily ride."
The team is also 100 percent responsible for providing their uniforms, entry fees, food, equipment, and transportation.
Despite the physical demands and the fees associated with the competition, the team is more focused on the actual experience.
"I'm excited," said Heyer. "I'm proud to wear the uniform as it is, but
to be able to wear the AF bicycling kit, I'm very excited and just very
proud to do it."
The chance to showcase the Air Force's wingman culture also motivates the team.
"That's what we are all about when we are out there; helping people and
showing people that the Air Force is really a bunch of great people,"
said Salomon. "I look forward to the camaraderie and being around the AF
cycling team members from other bases, as well as interacting with all
the people out there."
The RAGBRAI begins July 21, 2013, in Des Moines, Iowa. Since its
inception in 1973, more than 275,650 cyclists have participated in the