Hotter 'N Hell Hundred MOVES Cyclists at Sheppard

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Richard Devereaux
  • 82nd Training Wing commander
As you all know, two weekends ago Sheppard hosted a segment of the Hotter 'N Hell Hundred bike ride. 

Although the 100-mile route did not transit the base, the 25-mile, 50-mile, and 100K routes did and attracted thousands of cyclists to Sheppard. The routing featured a rest stop at the Pitsenbarger Fitness Center. Maj Brian Young, 82 MDOS, was charged with our support of this premier cycling event and did a great job leading the effort.

What is most remarkable in my mind about this event is not what the base did but the unsolicited feedback I've received from dozens of cyclists who rode through Sheppard that day. It has been unanimously and enthusiastically positive! I've been pelted with e-mails over the past 10 days thanking us for their Sheppard experience. Nearly all of them said it was the highlight of the ride!

The cyclists commented on how great the base looked; they loved the aircraft displays arranged by the 82 TRG on our training ramp; they were motivated by 48 signs developed by PA along the route telling the Air Force and Sheppard story; they were blown away by our rest stop at Pitsenbarger which featured not only drinks and snacks but a HAM radio exhibit, training technology displays, 80 FTW pilot training displays, heritage exhibits, and an F-16 Thunderbird; and they were awed by the huge AF Birthday banner hanging from the side of Pitsenbarger. And of course they loved the Sheppard hospitality from all of our volunteers.

But believe it or not, although the riders praised all the above, there was another part of their Sheppard experience that absolutely blew me them away, that compelled them to write and provide feedback. You may be surprised what that was--our Airmen!

As each cyclist rode past our 82 TRW Headquarters they were greeted by hundreds and hundreds of clapping and cheering Airmen lined up along G Avenue in their PT uniforms and offering "high fives" to the passing cyclists. It's a sight many of us might smile at, but not the civilians who rode through our base that day--they were in awe. Many commented that the sight of these Airmen brought tears to their eyes. Others said they felt like they should have been cheering for the Airmen.

Take a look at these excerpts from some of the letters and e-mails I've received. I wish there was room to publish them all:

It was a very emotional time for me, not because I have close ties with the military but because I felt it should be us (the cyclist) lining the streets cheering you guys and gals on.  It was hard for me to regain my composure for the rest stop!  What a wonderful job you do for our country and I can't thank you enough for your services.  Thank you again for one of the most memorable moments in my life now!

The riders in his group (all strangers) were SUPER IMPRESSED with their ride through the base and kept commenting to him and each other that it was the neatest thing they'd ever seen.

The base looked razor sharp as always when I rode onto it, and was astounded by the reception that we were given from all the airmen and airwomen that lined the boulevard as we passed by. Those whom we honor were honoring us with enthusiastic cheers and high 5's! It still moves me when I think of that moment.

Then, suddenly I was surrounded by hundreds of airmen and airwomen and their cheers brought tears to my eyes. That was a wonderful experience that I will always remember! And as my companions and I reflected, I commented, "How ironic! It is us who should be cheering for them!"

It dawned on me as I was passing through their man-made tunnel that "I" should be thanking them, and "I" should be shouting encouragement for their great service to our country. I loved their enthusiasm and felt humbled by their actions. I must have "hi-fived" a hundred or more hands as I passed by. It was a blast.

Today, I'm still emotional about my ride because even though I fell short of the 100-miler, I touched greatness there at Sheppard with so many young men and women giving service to our country.

I think this last rider said it all--he touched greatness here at Sheppard. We must never forget what these riders reminded us of. All of our leading-edge technology, our impressive aircraft, our gleaming facilities, and our beautiful bases, pale in significance to the quality and enthusiasm of our Airmen. 

Our Air Force is great because of our Airmen. And you each have a part in ensuring we continue to produce the greatest Airmen the world has ever known. Thanks Team Sheppard, be proud of what you're a part of, and know that your country supports what you do.