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Chief turns hobby into 500-mile trek

Chief Master Sgt. Alan Onufrak, 460th Medical Group superintendent, prepares for his 408 mile trek across Iowa July 21, 2013.  Onufrak participated in the Registers Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa as part of the Air Force team for the second time in his career. (Courtesy Photo)

Chief Master Sgt. Alan Onufrak, 460th Medical Group superintendent, prepares for his 408 mile trek July 21, 2013, across Iowa . Onufrak participated in the Registers Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa as part of the Air Force team for the second time in his career. (Courtesy Photo)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Airmen face many challenges every day that range from physical training to difficult work-related tasks, but rarely does any Airman, including a chief, face the challenge of a nearly 500-mile bike ride.

With less than a year left before he retires, Chief Master Sgt. Alan Onufrak, 460th Medical Group superintendent, rode in the Registers Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa on the Air Force team, all while helping fellow cyclists, recruiting and completing the challenge.

According to the RAGBRAI website, the event is a bicycle ride, not a race, averaging around 468 miles and lasting a full week. Each year more than 20,000 cyclist complete this challenge, with 95 members serving on the Air Force team.

"You do not have to be in real great shape to get across the ride," said Onufrak, "but to ride 468 miles in seven days does take a bit of conditioning."

Onufrak participated in RAGBRAI as part of the Air Force Cycling team. This team has participated for 19 years, using the opportunity to help others and spread a positive Air Force message.

"This is just a ride where you go at your own pace," the chief explained. "We all participate to be recruiters and spend as much time as possible in the towns. When you have a town that has a population of 1,000 -- and over the course of a day more than 35,000 people pass through -- to be the person to stop and help fix a tire or have lunch at a local restaurant, you can make a huge difference."

Since the last time Onufrak participated in RAGBRAI, he has kept up his cycling abilities while balancing his professional duties and personal life.

"I have a Trek 1200 road bike -- not one of the fanciest, but a great bike," said Onufrak. "I have put more than 10,000 miles on that bike since 2006. I try to get out at least once a week, and more when I can, but sometimes it is difficult to find a balance between being a chief, a dad, having a family and church.

This is the second time Onufrak has participated in RAGBRAI, but it was his last.

"I was part of RAGBRAI back in 2006," Onufrak said, "I wanted to do it this year because I am retiring at the end of this year, so this is my last opportunity to represent the Air Force as an active-duty member."

After more than 29 years of service, Onufrak is ready to keep cycling and join the ranks of Air Force retired.

"I enjoyed serving on the Air Force team for my last time as an active-duty member," the chief said. "There is always an opportunity to do this when I retire, but I think twice is enough for me."
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