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Friday, July 8, 2016

Tennessee Air National Guard Cycling Team is riding again in 2016

Tennessee Air National Guard Cycling Team is riding again in 2016
By:  Michael Lander

Jon Tweel, Richard Nix, and Mack Gilbert are three of six
members of this year's Tennessee Air National Guard
Cycling Team.  The team was first started in 2009 with
the main focus on supporting charitable causes in the
Memphis area.

There are only eight of them, but they represent thousands of what some might say are some of America’s finest.

The thousands are those who have served, or are currently serving, in the
Tennessee Air National Guard in Memphis.  The eight are members of a cycling team that, for three of the past seven years, has proudly represented this Air Guard unit in our river city.

Tennessee Air National Guard Cycling Team started in 2009 and, for the third time since then, its members will be participating in various charitable bike rides in and around Memphis throughout 2016.

One of the members of this cycling team rode in the
Mid-South Transplant Foundation’s Ride for Life on June 26, 2016, and one or more will be riding in the Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour on August 6 – 7, 2016, the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Team Relay Bike Ride on October 21 – 22, 2016, and all six will be riding in the 2016 FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150 on September 10 – 11, 2016.

Mack Gilbert is the team captain for the Tennessee Air
National Guard Cycling Team and he has participated
in charity-related bike rides that have included the
FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150 and the Meritan Midnight
Classic Bike Tour.

MSgt Malcolm “Mack” Gilbert is the team captain for this year’s cycling team.  MSgt Gilbert is assigned, fulltime, to the 164th Civil Engineer Squadron and he has been in the military for 33 years with seven years of that on active duty at McChord AFB in Tacoma, Wash. 

Gilbert also happens to be a huge fan of the
Seattle Seahawks, and those who know him, know he is, and will always be, “the 12th man.”

“Besides being the 12th man, I am also very proud to be the team captain this year for our cycling team and for the chance to lead those on our team in getting out and riding for as many great causes as we can,” Gilbert said.

“I really want people in our community to see us out riding and to know who we are and why we are doing these rides,” Gilbert added.

Mack Gilbert revived the Tennessee Air National Guard
Cycling Team this year and he is one of three who were
on the team when it was formed in 2009.

Along with raising money and awareness for various causes, Gilbert sees these rides as giving him and others on the team a way to improve their own health and fitness and to promote that in the community-at-large. 

Of the rides that one or more of his team will be doing, the FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150 may be the one that means the most to him.

“I have several friends who have multiple sclerosis (MS) and I will be dedicating my ride to them.  I have done three MS-150’s so far and this year will be my fourth,” Gilbert said.

One of the other seasoned cyclists on the Air Guard’s cycling team is TSgt Jonathan Tweel.  TSgt Tweel is assigned, fulltime, to the 164th Maintenance Squadron.

For years Tweel has been known as “turtle,” but it is a nickname that doesn’t quite fit him when it comes to cycling, since he has been known to move a lot faster than his name would seem to indicate.

Jon Tweel and Richard Nix and others on the Tennessee
Air National Guard Cycling Team have taken advantage
of every opportunity that they can to train for this
year's charity bike rides, especially the 150-mile
FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150.

“I joined the cycling team because I love to ride bikes and I thought this would be a great way to represent the Air National Guard and to let people know that we are in the community,” Tweel said.

“I also think that the charity rides that we can do as a team can help us to raise money and awareness for some very good causes, while helping us to become better friends as we come together as a team and they enable us to leave a positive impression of our unit within our community,” Tweel added.

As in past years, Tweel plans to ride in this year’s Meritan Midnight Classic and to do the FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150.

“I always enjoy the Meritan Midnight Classic.  It really is a blast.  I also like doing the FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150, but I always worry about climbing “
The Wall” on the second day of this 150-mile bike ride.  I have done four of these rides so far and this year will be my fifth one,” Tweel said.

Paige Stivers enjoys challenging herself
and, even though she has been a runner,
she is looking forward to taking a break
from it by cycling, which will also give
her an opportunity to represent the
Tennessee Air National Guard in any
charity-related cycling events in the
Memphis area.
One of the newcomers to the cycling team is MSgt Maria “Paige” Stivers who is assigned, fulltime, to the 164th Fire Department as the Deputy Fire Chief and Assistant Chief of Operations.

Even though MSgt Stivers may be new to the unit’s cycling team, strenuous physical activity is not anything that she is unaccustomed to because of her career in firefighting and in what she just loves to do in her own free time.

“I love to run and I participate in 5k’s, 10k’s, and other physically challenging events.  I have also completed the dragon fly triathlon, which was a sprint triathlon at Sardis Lake in 2009,” Stivers said.

Stivers in an ardent promoter of health and fitness and she has a Bachelor of Science in Education with a concentration in Physical Education and Health.

For Stivers, being on the cycling team has a tremendous potential for her, the unit, and the Memphis area community, too.

Richard Nix and Mack Gilbert, in the foreground, have been
training together on what will be part of the route for the
FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150.

“The cycling team helps to build a better community by connecting those in our city to those in our military unit.  The fundraising for charitable organizations, like the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, also helps to foster education and awareness and the development of a relationship of caring, inspiration, and hope from those within our organization,” Stivers said.

“I will enjoy the opportunities to represent the Tennessee Air National Guard as part of its cycling team.  Building relationships between members of the community and military members is important and it helps to promote our image as minutemen and women and that we are ‘always ready, always there,” she added.

MSgt Richard Nix is assigned to the 164th Civil Engineer Squadron and he, too, is new to the cycling team.

While Nix may be new to long-distance bike rides on a road bike, he is not exactly new to cycling, itself.

Darin Day is the only member of the Tennessee Air National
Guard Cycling Team who hasn't ever been a member of the
Air Guard unit.  The cycling team, however, is open to all
current and former members of the unit, their families, and
friends.  Day is a close friend to the team captain - Mack

“My cycling experience has been predominantly centered on mountain bike and trail rides, but when I was asked by the team captain, MSgt Mack Gilbert, about joining the Memphis Air National Guard Cycling Team, I thought about it and gave him a ‘sure, why not,’ response,” Nix said.

Even though it has been a challenge for him, he is training hard, riding two to three times a week with distances of 15 to 20 miles that include some of the same roads and hills that will be on the route for the FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150.

“I joined the team as a way to help myself with better health, but I know that my riding will also help with some good causes and for those in need and I am looking forward to the opportunity to give something back to others,” Nix said.

Darin Day is new to cycling, but he has been very active
in it since taking it up three years ago, which he does
on a Bacchetta Ti-Aero recumbent bicycle.

Unlike Nix and the others, Darin Day is not in the Tennessee Air National Guard, but he is a friend and fellow church-goer of MSgt Mack Gilbert and he found his way on to the team that way.

Day works in the Air Ops division at FedEx and he has been very active in cycling, particularly when it comes to supporting charitable causes.

“I have participated in the
Great Cycling Challenge for the Children’s Cancer Research fund, and will be participating in other charity rides, also.  Every year, for the last three years, I did a bike ride in memory of a friend who died from cancer to raise money for the ministry that she was so devoted to as well,” Day said.

Of the rides that the Tennessee Air National Guard Cycling Team will be doing, Day is looking most forward to the FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150.
Michael Lander has been a cyclist since 2007.  He has ridden
for many charitable causes and has raised in excess of
$15,000 for them in his nine years of riding.

“My aunt died from complications of MS and she’s often on my heart and mind and I will be dedicating my ride to those who are now fighting the disease, themselves,” Day said.

Day is relatively new to cycling, having only started three years ago, at the age of 47, and he has found that he really loves it.

“My only regret is not discovering it even earlier,” Day said.

“Cycling is a form of expression that I may have only recently discovered, but I’m looking forward to the new challenges and opportunities of ministry to others that it brings,” he said.

The three remaining members of the Tennessee Air National Guard Cycling Team are Dawn Stivers, Michael Wener, and me, Michael Lander.  To learn more about me,
click on this link.

The Tennessee Air National Guard Cycling Team represents a small fraction of a unit that has had a long and distinguished history of men and women who have been committed to a life of service and sacrifice on behalf of our community, our state, and our nation.

Michael Lander has participated in eleven 150-mile bike
rides for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and
this year will be his twelfth one.
They have long availed themselves, whenever called upon, to help during emergencies or natural disasters, assisting with humanitarian efforts, by providing airlift support, and by working with and alongside their active duty counterparts to protect and secure our nation’s assets and interests around the world.

It may be that, through cycling, our Memphis area community may come to know a military organization that is, and will always be there for them, whenever needed.


  1. Great article! Thanks for your work in promoting cycling in Memphis.

    1. Thank you, Darin, for saying that! I am glad for the opportunity to do what I can to help promote something that I have really come to love & I am also glad that you are among those who feel about cycling as I do.