Schriever Air Force Base, Colo. --
Imagine launching yourself into the wind, gradually gaining altitude and reaching speeds of 25-35 miles per hour catching the wind. As you look at the shrinking ground beneath your feet and the cool air blowing in your face, you stop to take in the view. This is the closest you will get to flying like your favorite superhero.
Schriever Airmen who participated in the Single Airman Initiative program experienced this sensation during a paragliding trip Saturday in Vail Valley, Colorado.
“The paragliding trip was amazing, it's probably the most adventurous thing I've ever done,” said Airman Basic Esmeralda Garcia, 50th Force Support Squadron customer service apprentice.
Paragliding is the simplest form of human flight. A paraglider is a non-motorized, foot-launched inflatable wing. It is easy to transport, launch and land. The paraglider itself is constructed of rip-stop nylon from which the pilot is suspended by sturdy kevlar lines.
The pilot is clipped into a harness and oriented in a sitting position for maximum comfort. With a paraglider, you actually fly like a bird, soaring upwards on currents of air. Paraglider pilots routinely stay aloft for three hours or more, climb to elevations of 15,000 feet and go cross-country for vast distances.
“I chose paragliding because we’ve never done this event and it looked interesting. The United States Air Force Academy Single Airmen's Initiative Program coordinator did a paragliding trip few years ago and said the Airmen had a great time, so I included paragliding in this year's event schedule,” said Seth Cannello, 50th Force Support Squadron sports and fitness manager.
“The paragliding trip was an interesting experience. It was not an extreme activity but an enjoyable one. The staff was friendly and gave you as much info as you wanted about the activity. The fact they provided the GoPro cameras was a great addition. It was an interesting experience and I can't wait for the camera photos to show my friends,” said Airman 1st Class Cole Mirek, 4th Space Operations Squadron communication support/terminal operator.
The SAI program, which is funded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, was designed to provide resources that foster a strong culture, mission and sense of community for single Airmen. The program is open to any Air Force active duty or Air Reserve Component member, enlisted or officer, without a spouse, including geographically separated Airmen.
“For most of our trips I take approximately 10 people. This is a good number to travel with in the services van,” said Cannello.
The program has been going smoothly with the exception of one thing. Commitment.
“I send out several reminder messages and ask Airmen to let me know if they aren't available. Then, a day or two before an activity, Airmen will email me and say something has come up. When this happens, even if I have people on my waitlist, it's hard for me to find replacements. The people on the waitlist can't go because they weren't given enough time. I've been really lucky in the past and have been able to fill up the trips but sometimes it comes down to the last minute,” said Cannello.
In spite of this issue those who attend do have a great time at the various events.
“I'm so happy I came across this event that allowed me to do something that I’d more than likely never do on my own. I am very grateful that this opportunity was presented to me. I had such a great experience running off of a cliff and soaring, Colorado was breathtaking. I can't wait for the next event,” said Garcia.
According to Cannello, he is always looking for ideas and is open to suggestions for next year's activities. Single Airmen who have a particular activity in mind are encouraged to email him to see if the idea is viable and/or something he can incorporate into next fiscal year’s program.
The activity must be under $200 to include travel and Airmen need to be actively participating in the events. The program does not schedule sporting events or concerts. The next Single Airmen Initiative program is a 14 mile hike up Mt. Bierstadt Aug. 15.
For more information, or to check availability, single Airmen can contact Connello at 567-6628 or email him at email@example.com. There are currently 10 openings for this event. On Sept. 2, there will also be a dove hunt (interested Airmen will need a valid Colorado small game hunting license, a hunter's education card and a shotgun). There are currently 24 openings.