MacDill Airman begins new journey on Air Force Cycling Team

  • Published
  • By Airman Adam R. Shanks
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

An Airman cyclist, donned in blue-and-white Air Force spandex notices a fellow cyclist has a broken bicycle. He pulls to the side of the road and offers assistance.

The Airman helps fix the bike, but it can only be used in a high gear, making the Iowan hills a challenging prospect. Seven miles separate the two bikers from the day’s finish point.

Instead of letting his fellow Airman struggle alone with the remaining miles, Senior Airman Brenton Thom, a network integration technician assigned to the 6th Communications Squadron (CS) at MacDill Air Force Base (AFB), Florida, decided to tow the other participant with him to the finish.

“I don’t believe anyone should be left behind,” said Thom. “We started this event together, and we were finishing it together.”

Thom is a member of the Air Force Cycling Team (AFCT) and participated in the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) 2016. The event lasted from July 24 through July 30, 2016.

But Thom’s participation in such an event wasn’t something he saw himself doing at the beginning of his cycling journey. He began riding recreationally in high school, and upgraded to a road bike in 2009 after graduating from college. After joining the Air Force, Thom’s involvement in cycling kept increasing.

“Fitness is a big deal to me, and cycling became my favorite way of working out,” said Thom.

He eventually developed a love for cycling, and discovered the AFCT. He researched the team and became hungry for a challenge. After missing the application deadline in 2015, he was resolutely determined to make the team in 2016.

“I remember how excited he was when he told us he made the cycling team,” said Senior Airman Adam Skalski, a network integration technician assigned to the 6th CS and Thom’s co-worker. “He likes that the team gives him the ability to ride and assist others who share the same love of cycling.”

After extensive training, Thom felt prepared for RAGBRAI, and traveled from MacDill AFB to Iowa to begin his cycling journey. Spanning approximately 500 miles, the event started at the Missouri River and ended at the Mississippi River.

“It’s almost a tradition; we dip our rear tires in the Missouri, and end with our front tires in the Mississippi,” said Thom.

For AFCT members, RAGBRAI isn’t meant to be a competition. It is a self-paced ride with a set amount of miles to accomplish each day.

“It’s all about coming together with cyclists from different states, different bases, and riding together,” said Thom. “We would stop in towns along the way and meet people. If they had questions about the Air Force, we were there to answer.”

Between helping others and cycling across a state, Thom returned to MacDill AFB with a contagious love for cycling and a smile on his face.

“Thom’s morale is always high; he is one happy man,” Skalski said. “And after he returned from RAGBRAI, he showed me photos and kept talking about it. I was looking for a way to build my cardio, and Thom suggested cycling. Although starter bikes are expensive, I’m still looking forward to getting one to ride alongside him.”

“I would recommend the AFCT to anyone who is interested,” said Thom. “It’s a great way to get out, explore and also test your limits.”