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Friday, September 25, 2015

Reasons why the National Guard can and should support cycling among its members

Reasons why the National Guard can and should support cycling among its members
By:  Michael Lander

The Tennessee Air National Guard (TNANG) in Memphis formed
its cycling team in 2009 for the purpose of raising money for
charitable causes.  (Photo:  Lt Col (Ret) Jim Hall)

It would probably not seem like there would be any connection, what-so-ever, between cycling and the active duty military and the Army and Air
National Guard, but there are some good reasons why there should be.

The National Guard has long prided itself in living up to its motto of “
Always ready, always there,” and the men and women of the National Guard have always been ready, willing, and able to answer the call whenever they have been needed during emergencies and disasters and to defend and protect the U.S.

Cycling teams, like the one that members of the Air National
Guard in Memphis formed, provided them with an
opportunity to train and ride together for a common
cause while promoting the unit at the same time.
(Photo:  Lt Col (Ret) Jim Hall)

There are many factors that come into play that enable the men and women of the National Guard to be able to accomplish their wide-ranging mission.  Cycling could possibly be one of the better ways to physically and mentally prepare them to be able to do this.

Over the last decade, cycling has become one of the many ways that some of our
wounded warriors coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan have been able to find the rehabilitative and the therapeutic benefits of it for both their minds and bodies.

Cycling can be a rehabilitative and therapeutic activity for
those who have experienced injuries and it can be good
for the mind and body for all who do it.
(Photo:  Lt Col (Ret) Jim Hall)

Given that, it really is not a stretch to think that cycling could also be something that all of our National Guard soldiers and airmen could also benefit from and it should be something that the National Guard itself should begin promoting and encouraging their members to do.

In the post 9/11 world that we live in today, members of the National Guard have had to assume an even greater and more prominent role where they have had to step up, fill in, and augment the mission that was once only expected of their active duty counterparts.

With increased emphasis on physical fitness, cycling can
help members of the National Guard to reach the
standards that they are required to meet.
(Photo:  Lt Col (Ret) Jim Hall)
With that change, the pressing need for National Guard troops to be physically fit and fully qualified for worldwide duty has become even greater, and cycling can be one of the best ways to promote physical fitness and good health. 

Cycling can also provide a less tangible, but no less important, service in fostering and promoting team-building and camaraderie among those who do ride. 

Being able to work in unison with one another is essential to having successful military organizations with servicemen and women who are able to efficiently and effectively carry out their mission.  Cycling can help to further reinforce these relationships and instill the value of working more closely together for a common goal.

Cycling teams in the National Guard could help to foster and
promote team-building and camaraderie.
(Photo:  Lt Col (Ret) Jim Hall)

In addition to helping inspire a sense of camaraderie, cycling can also be a way of bringing unit members together, along with their families, and even those who once served, but are now retired.

Having cycling teams within the various Army and Air National Guard units can also be a great recruiting tool that could potentially bring interest and attention to a unit if members of their unit’s team can compete at the local, state, or national level.  

Cycling teams can also help to establish a greater presence and involvement in the community, especially if the rides are in support of fundraising efforts for charitable causes.

Having cycling teams can be a great recruiting tool for the
National Guard, especially when members participate at
competitive events at the local, state, or national level.
(Photo:  Lt Col (Ret) Jim Hall)
To make this happen, the National Guard Bureau must begin to see the value of cycling and they should find ways to endorse it. 

Cycling can be a very expensive activity, from the bicycles, to cycling gear and team jerseys.  If the National Guard is not able to help with some of the out-of-pocket expenses associated with cycling, the least that they could do is to give some form of support or by creating a policy that is favorable to those personnel who are interested in doing it. 

It is not unreasonable that the National Guard could offer some form of support (possibly even through some
appropriated or non-appropriated funding) since, under its former director Lt. Gen. William Ingram, Jr., they did, after all, sponsor NASCAR and Indy racers from 2008 to 2015 with $48 million in 2014 alone.

Athletic teams, like those for cycling, can provide an opportunity
for an enormous amount of pride for the individual National
Guard units who have members who can represent
them during competitive and even non-competitive events.
(Photo:  Lt Col (Ret) Jim Hall)

All of this, of course, was done under the auspices of recruiting, which, from all accounts, may not have yielded any appreciable results for the amount of money that was spent.

Unlike this type of expenditure, though, cycling teams have the potential of yielding a lot more, and it would be an actual investment in the lives, health, and fitness of its members.

Currently, there is a
U.S. Armed Forces Cycling Team that is the official team representing the United States Armed Forces in national and international competitions. It is the approved cycling team of the Department of Defense.

There is a U.S. Armed Forces and an Air Force Cycling Team,
which National Guard members can join, but they and
their units may benefit more if their units established
cycling teams of their own.
(Photo:  Lt Col (Ret) Jim Hall)

The Air Force also has a cycling team that is comprised of active-duty Air Force, Reserve, National Guard, and Air Force civilian riders whose main goal and purpose, according to their mission statement, is to "promote the Air Force in the most positive way possible using cycling as a way to display 'wingmanship' and fitness."

Outside military circles, many businesses have established cycling teams themselves and there is no reason that National Guard units cannot do the same.  By having these teams, it would give the National Guard an opportunity to have some of their finest men and women out representing their units to the rest of the world.

Cycling requires a tremendous amount of training and
preparation, which National Guard personnel are
accustomed to since training, preparedness, and
readiness is an integral part of their military
(Photo:  Lt Col (Ret) Jim Hall)

The National Guard has its origins in the
first militia regiments in North America that were organized in Massachusetts in 1636 to defend the colony.  From this, the National Guard was born.

From its inception, members of the National Guard have voluntarily served and protected their communities.  Today, they are there to help with local emergencies and disasters and, when called upon, have joined their active duty counterparts to defend the nation from the time of the Revolutionary War to the threat of terrorism that we now face.

Cycling teams afford National Guard units, and their members,
with an opportunity to be out in their communities and to
have a positive impact by participating in charitable events.
(Photo:  Lt Col (Ret) Jim Hall)

When most of us think about the Air and Army National Guard, we might think of our men and women who render aid during local emergencies and disasters and who serve and defend our country. 

Perhaps one day we will also see them out in their communities on bicycles, reaching out, raising money for good causes, and proudly representing the oldest military organization in the U.S. in a new and distinctively unique way.