Commentary by Staff Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. — When the Air Force implemented the Single Airman Initiative, I was skeptical. See, I am a single Airman. I thought an initiative aimed at my non-married group is farcical. Sure, base organizations including Airman and family readiness centers have programs for married Airmen, but why do we need an initiative for single Airmen? Are we so marginalized that we need our own program? Why can’t we have an Airman Initiative, aimed at all Airmen, regardless of marital status?
I realized however after a very eventful day Friday that maybe we do need a focused effort to generate a greater sense of belonging. At the end of the day, some Airmen have families to come home to and communicate with; they have their own community. This is one way the Air Force shows we are one big family, and no one gets left behind, even the red-headed single child, or in my case a bald one.
A week prior to that eventful day, I was browsing through my e-mails after leave when I saw a message about the Single Airmen Initiative. The program features free sky diving and zip lining trips for these “single Airmen.” At first, I thought it was for airmen basic to senior airmen, then found out it was for all single Airmen, regardless of rank.
I asked my supervisor immediately if I could do both, but preferably the sky diving. We came to an agreement that I could go if I produced an article about my experience. Being optimistic, I sent a reply asking for both trips, hoping there’s still a slot for the skydiving. Fat chance. I was two days late; the trip was booked within two hours after the e-mail was sent out. I was disappointed, but still agreed to do the zip line adventure. I thought “it’s not as cool as sky diving but hey, it’s free.”
The day came. I was not nervous at all. This is going to be a piece of cake, I thought. We drove to Manitou Springs and were picked up by a rickety, customized jeep. The road to the zip line point was rough at best. As we arrived at the zip line location and saw the wires hanging from one cliff to another, I thought this is not what I expected; this is insane. However, I mustered some courage and hoped the experience went according to plan.
The guides instructed us to don our safety gear and harnesses; this did not calm me at all. They explained what to do, showed us the basics and corralled us to the starting point or our doom. Since I would be taking photos, I had to go first carrying my camera, which made me concerned more about dropping the expensive office equipment than falling into the ravine. Heading out first, I thought, “Great, the first one to make a fool of himself.”
As I ran from the beginning to the edge of the cliff, raised my legs and “zip lined” to the other side, I blurted some expletive words that would not make my mama proud. Forgive me.
It was an adrenaline rush. As soon as I reached the end, my knees were shaking, but it was a great feeling. I wanted to do it again. It was a good thing we had six more opportunities to zip line, or as I like to call it “Tarzaning.” We crossed through the sturdy wires fast, slow and at one time, stopping in the middle just to look for a caveman and license plates. During the long ones, we posed as we zipped through the line. Some did the inverted, arms and legs apart, plank, Heisman and one tried the Tebow.
We zip line for another two hours, but it seemed shorter. I wanted to do more but it was time to go. I asked a few people if they had fun, and the general consensus was a resounding yes.
As we headed out, it kept me thinking about why the Air Force implemented the initiative. The program’s goal is to provide resources that foster a strong culture, mission and sense of community for single Airmen. Sure, the event did hit all its goals. But there is more to that. With activities such as zip lining or sky diving, it allows Airmen to experience the outdoors, have fun with their fellow Airmen and just take their mind off their job, just for a little bit. It made me realize that the service cares for its Airmen. The Air Force provides different avenues for us to enjoy life; it is up to us to take advantage of these opportunities.