MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --
A 931st Air Refueling Wing Citizen Airman raised $578 in charity for injured servicemembers by biking from Carefree, Az., to San Diego from May 1 – 4, 2019.
Senior Airman Jeff Turnage, 931st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, participated in three fundraisers during the past 3 years for Mission2Alpha — formerly Operation Hero Project — that include this year’s 4-day 400-mile bike ride, a 129-mile ride through Death Valley, and an eight-person 250 mile relay triathlon raising approximately $3,700 in total.
The money raised by Mission2Alpha is used to directly support injured servicemembers, first responders and their families on the road to recovery.
Turnage, a former marine, says his uncle started the foundation to support injured Marines, but quickly expanded the program to include all services and first responders.
“I was there back in 2012, when they completed an event on Camp Pendleton,” he said. “After talking with my uncle quite a bit about it, I got very motivated. Even though cycling was never my thing I grew very fond of it, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
In addition to his regular physical training, Turnage said he spent months in advance training for each event, to ensure he could keep up with the group to complete the challenge.
“Basically, in the months leading up to the ride, it’s all about time on the saddle. You’re on the bike for the better part of five or six hours and those seats aren’t that comfortable. You want to work your average speed up to about 17 miles per hour. You need to be able to essentially punish yourself for 5 or 6 hours in a row.”
Needless to say, a 400-mile bike ride through the desert is no easy task to accomplish. Turnage said he was thankful to have a tight-knit team keeping each other motivated throughout the challenge.
“Your teammates won’t let you quit,” he said. “When you’re about to give up just tell yourself, ‘I can make it to the next rest stop,’ or ‘I can make it another mile.’ It’s a combination of what you tell yourself and what your teammates tell you.”
After overcoming some personal issues that kept him from participating with the 931AMXS, Master Sgt. Edward Cropper, 931 AMXS section chief, said Turnage is an inspiration to those around him.
“Turnage overcame a few medical issues to become a drilling member again,” Cropper said. “His proactiveness, desire and drive to get back to the mission has been a positive influence to his fellow Airmen.”
After raising roughly $3,700 through donations, this dedicated 931 ARW Citizen Airmen said he just wants to find a way to do more for the men and women the program supports.
“I’m definitely participating next year. [Raising money] makes me want to raise more. I’ve got a lot of ground to make up between me and our top fundraisers,” Turnage said. “It was a wonderful experience, you build a lot of camaraderie with your teammates, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Turnage encourages all Airmen, service members, and people from all walks of life to give back through something they’re passionate about.
“We always need more participants. We’ve got guys that are titans of industry, we’ve got former military, and joe schmoes that just want to give back all coming together for the greater good,” he said. “Find a cause that you think needs it, then step in and help where you can.”