“The Air Force Cycling Team’s primary mission is to promote the Air Force as our nation’s great defender of freedom in the air, space, and cyberspace.
Our team consists of men and women who are serving or who have served, and who exemplify what makes our Air Force what it is today. We do this by showing how a team of Air Force cyclists can exhibit the Air Force core values of: Integrity First, Service before Self, and Excellence in All we do. Exhibiting these traits as we operate as representatives of the greater force. The team uses cycling as a way to display wingmanship and an attitude of Service.
The team’s flagship ride is RAGBRAI, where more than a hundred Air Force riders take to the road to showcase Americas’ Air Force, as they serve as sentries on the roads of Iowa for a 500-mile trek.”
Stu Carter is the “Father” of the Air Force Cycling Team (AFCT) In 1995 after moving to Offutt AFB from Izmir, Turkey, he became a member of the inaugural team called “Team Aim High.” The team was started by Air Force recruiters in Bellevue, Nebraska to ride in the world-famous Registers Annual Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). First held in 1973, RAGBRAI is America’s oldest and most popular multi-day bike ride ranging anywhere from 400 to 500 miles over 7 days. Its popularity and international appeal attract approximately 20,000 bike riders and participants each year. The team grew from 28 riders in the 1995 to over 100 riders in 1997. After the RAGBRAI in 1997, the USAF recruiters withdrew official management and financial support of the team-potentially killing it.
Stu stepped in, created a Tax Free Organization with the IRS, and garnered official AF sanctioning and sponsorship by the Air Force Secretary, The Honorable Dr. Sheila E. Widnall, and later by the next SECAF, the Honorable F. Whitten Peters. The team was saved and became an entirely self sufficient organization comprised of volunteer Active Duty, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, family members, and retirees. Both SECAF Widnall and SECAF Peters would eventually become AFCT riders themselves!
Despite being a international event the majority of riders at RAGBRAI were Iowa natives who typically didn’t get much exposure to the military. Thus the team slowly evolved from its early roots of “riding fast to impress” to “slowing down to chat.” This connection to the public continued to grow and in 2010, the team unofficially started helping other riders who had flat tires or other simple mechanical issues. In 2014 rendering aid on the route was officially placed on the organizations charter, solidifying it’s dedication to the public. Along with it came the establishment of regional (base) groups that expanded the teams reach to performing the same level of service at other large rides all across the country.
Today, with their distinctive Air Force cycling uniforms, the AFCT emphasizes projecting a positive image of the Air Force. In addition to demonstrating the physical fitness of Air Force members, the team has become known throughout the RAGBRAI community as the “guardian angels” of the route. Whether fixing flat tires, replacing chains, directing traffic around accidents, rendering first aid, or just coaxing a tired bicyclist up a steep hill, AFCT members are always there to help.