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YARS’s Guardian Angel

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Noah J. Tancer
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Seven days and more than 500 miles of road.

40,000 bike pedals moving in a spiral.

Snap.

One of about 20,000 cyclists goes down in the crowd.

Emerging from the crowd of bikes, an Air Force cyclist stops and checks on the rider.

Another Air Force cyclist appears and changes the broken bike chain.

Once the rider is back on the bike and confirmed to be okay, the Guardian Angels of the Road fade back into the crowd.

Each year, 125 Air Force Cycling Team riders and a 15-person support team participate in the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.

The team’s mission is to promote the Air Force; however, they have earned the nickname Guardian Angels of the Road by fixing flat tires, doing basic bike repairs and supporting safety services with traffic control or administering self aid buddy care before first responders arrive.

For the past four years, Senior Master Sgt. Jim Delgros, a maintenance operations superintendent with the 910th Maintenance Group, has been a Guardian Angel of the Road.

“We’re on the road, we’re all over the place,” said Delgros. “More often than not we're the first ones on the scene if somebody does get hurt, and we’ll do self aid buddy care and first aid until the first responders get there. Then we’ll help them out wherever they need help.”

Delgros is part of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Regional Cycling Team. There are multiple regional teams around the country consisting of Active Duty, Guard, Reserve, Air Force civilians and retirees. Each team participates in local rides throughout the year but all the teams come together for RAGBRAI at the end of July.

“It’s generally 40 to 70 miles a day, but one of the days during the week there is a 100 mile route,” said Delgros. “You can’t go down the road very far or very often without seeing somebody along the road with two or three Air Force guys around him helping him get back on the road. We stop and help 5 or 6 people a day usually.”

Each year a variety of vendors donates tubes and basic bike parts to the Air Force Cycling Team. Team members will carry tubes, bike parts and different snacks with them on the ride.

“Not only will we fix their bike, but we'll usually give them a tube,” said Delgros. “They’ll ask, ‘Do we have to pay for it?’ ‘No, it’s been donated.’ There’s people from all 50 states there, and I’m not sure how many foreign countries show up for the event. If it’s a hot day and somebody is struggling up a hill, we’ll hand them off a power bar or energy gel or just ride along encouraging. It’s what we do.”

Delgros and his fellow Guardian Angels of the Road may be a small group in the Total Force community they represent but they are a beacon.

“It’s a sense of belonging," said Delgros. “You can’t go down the road too far without someone shouting 'go Air Force,' or 'thank you Air Force.' Somewhere along the way somebody knows somebody that you stopped and helped fix their bike, encouraged them or just helped them out. They like to see the Air Force guys around.”

Delgros has never won an award or joined a race to even try to win one; that’s not why he rides. He simple enjoys riding his bike, staying fit, getting to meet people and feeling the rush of rocketing 50 mph down a hill on a bike.