INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey (AFNS)
(This feature is part of the “Through Airmen’s Eyes” series. These stories focus on individual Airmen, highlighting their Air Force story.)
The air is crisp like the frost on the ground; winter is approaching as Senior Master Sgt. Jason Chiasson hops onto his sleek road bike. Today he will only ride 25 miles, a short day compared to the 100-mile days in his strict training schedule as an Air Force Cycling Team cyclist.
Chiasson is the 39th Communications Squadron production superintendent of cyber operations, which means taking care of Airmen is close to his heart. Chiasson spoke about the importance of leading by example.
“I want people to know (the Air Force) is one of the best organizations you could ever work for,” Chiasson said. “I don’t see myself as just a communications technician or a communications superintendent. I’m an Airman. The whole body compass of an Airman is to make sure other people know and want to emulate professionalism … I think I can do that by doing this.
“And it keeps this 40-year-old man in shape,” he said, laughing.
Chiasson arrived to Incirlik Air Base in April 2014. He said he felt like he was not representing the professional military image in the best way he could. Partly because of this feeling and partly because of a driving desire to continually better himself, he decided to train for a triathlon.
After completing his first Ironman, Chiasson became interested in joining one of the Air Force sports teams. He first looked into joining the triathlon team, but was unable to because he could not complete in all of the races needed as a prerequisite to join while stationed here. However, during his triathlon training, he had discovered the joy of cycling and instead looked to join the Air Force Cycling team.
“They pretty much look at your commitment, your dedication, and the reasons why you want become part of the team,” Chiasson said.
The Air Force Cycling Team is part of the We Are All Recruiters program, whose primary mission is to inspire, engage and recruit future Airmen to deliver airpower for America. The cyclists of the Air Force team do this by exhibiting the core values and displaying wingmanship as they participate in group rides around the country.
“We’ll do team rides, where we’re all grouped up, get on our (Air Force) cycling gear, and then we’ll just go represent the Air Force at certain big key races throughout the year,” Chiasson said. “The biggest race being what’s called the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, where you ride from the western side of Iowa all the way to the eastern border of Iowa, across the state in seven days. It is 500-plus miles, but you do it as a team. So throughout the entire week, people see (Air Force) cyclists. There is actually one day where we get together, all of us, it’s about 130 people, and you get two by two, and you ride like that. It’s an amazing sight. It’s going to be awesome.”
When Chiasson trains, it depends on the weather. In the summer he rode before work when it was cool, now he rides on his lunch hour when it’s the warmest. Some days he trains on a stationary bike inside. Though when or where he cycles may change, he makes sure to train six days a week. Where others might find training for such endurance sports to be tedious, Chiasson said he looks at it as an opportunity to reflect.
“What I tell people is this is not a job,” Chiasson said. “This is a lifestyle. This is not a switch I turn on and off when I put on my uniform. It’s with the same mentality I approach anything in life. Whether it’s a relationship, raising my children, interacting with Airmen, or getting on a bike I’m always going to go 100 percent.”
By continually working to improve his fitness, Chiasson said he hopes to serve as a standard for other Airmen.
“I think if we can get more Airmen to try these things, I just have faith that you would see a fitter force,” he said. “You would see a more positive force, because science has proven your physical abilities directly link to your mental abilities. If you are overall physically healthy then most of the time you are mentally healthy as well.”
Chiasson said that while promoting the Air Force and staying in shape are both important to him, the thing he finds most inspiring about his journey to the Air Force Cycling Team is seeing how he has been able to affect other Airmen.
“What’s really cool is since I’ve been doing this, I’ve had some Airmen want to start training (with me),” Chiasson said. “These Airmen are legit. They can keep up, they have the dedication. Just to see them grow, it’s exciting. It’s infectious.”