WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – When Brig. Gen. Jason Lindsey talks about cycling, you can clearly hear the passion and excitement in his voice.
A proud member of the U.S. Air Force Cycling Team, Lindsey recently participated in RAGBRAI – an annual, week-long bicycle ride across the State of Iowa – where his love of cycling, teamwork and service converged.
“The Air Force Cycling Team motto is Guardian Angels of the Road,” said Lindsey, who serves as the Program Executive Officer for Presidential and Executive Airlift. “At RAGBRAI, we provided first aid and mechanical assistance. Riders knew that if they needed help, they could flag down an Air Force rider and we would render aid, whether it’s medical or fixing flat tires, repairing broken chains, adjusting brakes, or whatever is needed.”
The Air Force Cycling Team is a non-competitive service oriented organization, comprised of active-duty Air Force, Space Force, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve members, as well as Air Force retirees and civilians, who volunteer to ride in support of Air Force recruiting. Active-duty team members who participated in RAGBRAI were approved by the Air Force Recruiting Service as part of the We Are All Recruiters program.
RAGBRAI is seven days of cycling across Iowa, through corn fields, rolling hills, river valleys, and numerous towns, with more than 15,000 riders participating. This year, the route covered approximately 480 miles, and more than 13,000 ft. of elevation gain.
“The route takes you through several small towns every day, and ends in an overnight town, where all the riders can clean up, eat, sleep, and get ready for the next day,” said Lindsey. “The local hospitality is amazing. The local schools and fire stations open up and provide showers. Virtually every local church offers dinner. And there are plenty of vendors along the way, offering anything you’d like, especially Iowa’s famous pork chops and sweet corn. It’s like the state fair came to town, in every little town we visited.”
During the overnight, the Air Force team camped out in tents, and woke up every day to support other riders.
In fact, by day three of the event, the Air Force team had fixed more than 500 flat tires, for some very grateful riders.
“People really appreciate the Air Force team’s service,” said Lindsey. “Constantly, throughout the week, we heard ‘Thank you Air Force, thanks for being here!’ It’s because the team has built such a strong reputation for service over the years. So many of the other cyclists have had us fix a flat tire, or seen us fixing someone else’s flat, or seen us rendering first aid. So they know that’s the reason we are there.”
On the first day of riding, the route went through the small town of Aurelia, Iowa. “A local resident waved me down at a rest stop in Aurelia,” said Lindsey. “She knew about the team’s mission and reputation for service, and wanted to thank me. She gave me a ‘guardian angel’ clip, which is still proudly displayed on my bike.”
For Lindsey, this year’s RAGBRAI held special significance because it was the first event he was able to train for following a serious medical diagnosis.
“I was diagnosed with bladder cancer two years ago,” he said. “I’m still under observation, and I’m going to be just fine, but for about sixteen months, I couldn’t spend much time on a bike. In November of 2020, when it was possible for me to seriously bike again, committing to the team and committing to RAGBRAI inspired me to get back into shape after a long physical fitness layoff.”
“From a resiliency standpoint, cycling is important to me,” Lindsey added. “It ‘fills my bucket,’ and brings me joy. It’s so important that we all know what it is that ‘fills our bucket,’ because you never know when your bucket is going to get poured out and when you’re going to need to draw on whatever it is that inspires you. For me, I love to ride bikes, and love to help others.”
While the ride was fun, the best part was helping others and representing the Air Force, Lindsey said.
“All of the folks who participated in the ride and all the local folks in Iowa who saw us on the road associated the Air Force with service,” he said. “That’s the real payoff for the team’s efforts. It was very rewarding to help make that positive impression, and help keep everyone safe so we could all have a great ride.”