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Airmen, families zip through Colorado sky

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- If someone would have told me that a year and a half into my Air Force Reserve career I would be hanging upside down from a wire, speeding through the sky at more than 35 miles per hour, I would have called a recruiter a long time ago.

The Buckley AFB Outdoor Recreation program hosted its first zip line tour for service members, civilians and family members Sept. 20 at Vail's Zip Adventure in Vail, Colorado. After being on the waiting list for a week, I finally got the call that a spot opened up. Score!

Twenty-two of us - a mix of active-duty, reserve and civilian members, as well as their families - met at 8:30 a.m. at the outdoor recreation parking lot and loaded onto the bus that would drive us to and from the event, with a stop along the way to the Dillon Dam Brewery in Dillon.

The excitement was palatable as we took our seats on the bus. William C. Link III, 460th Force Support Squadron Outdoor Recreation adventure programmer, could hardly contain his enthusiasm as he spoke.

"As an adventure programmer, it's my job to come up with the more thrilling activities or something to get the blood flowing or the adrenaline going for the Airmen," Link said.
His passion for organizing tours extends beyond planning for an adrenaline rush. Link's work encompasses the unique needs of our service members coming home to or leaving their loved ones. 

"When you have a deployed member and they come back and haven't seen their family in a while, sometimes it's difficult to bring back the cohesion, and this is a good way to bring that back," Link said. "A healthy family will create a healthier Airman, and that will create a healthier Air Force. It all adds together."

It certainly does add together, and for all services.

Every participant had their own reasons for signing up for the tour. For me, here on orders from March Air Reserve Base, California, I wanted to meet new people and experience what beauty Colorado had to offer. I was not alone.

"These opportunities are exciting. They're fun, and you get to meet a lot of new people. It's not all about having fun, but also networking and getting to know other people," said Maj. Bradley K. Bair, Air Reserve Personnel Center assignment facilitator.

The chatter was nonstop during the two-hour ride to the brewery. Participants had a chance to mingle, get to know each other and ponder what the zip line adventure would be like. 

Lt. Col. Gregg A. Rich, ARPC chief of rated assignments, commended outdoor recreation on their first zip line tour.

"I thought the brewery stop was a good addition. We got to have a good lunch and see another town in the mountains, and it was nice to meet all of the other folks that were doing the tour," Rich said.

After lunch, we piled back into the bus, bellies full and anxious to get to the highlight of the day - the zip line course.

We arrived at Zip Adventures, where we were given a safety brief and, with the help of the tour guides, donned our zip gear. Once geared up, everyone piled into circa-1974 model Pinzgauers.  The Austrian-made, six-wheel-drive, all-terrain vehicles were originally manufactured in the 1970s for transportation of military troops over rocky terrain. These vehicles delivered an authentic outdoorsy experience and, as the dust kicked up around us, we headed for the course.

One by one, we braved the six-part zip line course with lines ranging from "The Bunny Hill," a beginner run with a very gentle slope and easy take-off and leading to the "What was I Thinking" line that features a 1,000 foot-long zip line down the canyon with an aircraft carrier-style landing.

With the turn of the season underway, we soared, zipped and flipped our way through the golden hues of fall.

"I missed some of it because I was hanging upside down, but it was beautiful. The aspen trees have fantastic color," said Susan Maier, 460th Space Communications Squadron base records and publications manager.

The best part for Rich was going upside down.

"The last zip, the long one, was the most fun.  I got to do a little bit of everything - go upside down and spin around," Rich said.

He wasn't the only one who was "flipped" by this adventure.

"This is the first tour I've ever been on with outdoor recreation on any of my assignments, and I thought it was pretty awesome," said Bair. "It was something to get out, get away, and have some fun and see the local area. I recommend anybody and everybody to take advantage of these opportunities."

On average, the Buckley Outdoor Recreation program plans two trips per month. Some are geared toward service members set to leave for or return from deployment, while others are open to all service members, DOD cardholders and their families.

For more information on the outdoor recreation program or to view upcoming events visit the Buckley Outdoor Recreation website.