By Airman 1st Class Robert J. Volio, 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 11, 2015
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- As I stood at the top of an incredibly steep hill in Santa Barbara, surrounded by nothing but acres of land and air, my body was in the latter stages of an all-out mutiny.
My mind was enthralled by the scenic view, fully prepared for what was to follow. My stomach, on the other hand, was tied in knots, providing an expletive-filled narrative that my mind did its best to ignore, but to no avail. My body became numb. The once vibrant colors floating through the air at Elings Park shifted into black and white. Suddenly, the multiple strings attached to my hands all looked the same, and the radio secured to my chest was making noises that I couldn't decipher.
My acrophobia had fully kicked in.
I've been afraid of heights for as long as I could remember, but this couldn't possibly deter me today, could it? I thought to myself, how many people get an opportunity to do something like this? A result of my ever-growing knack for adventure-seeking, I found myself in quite the predicament.
"Radio check, Robert."
The pre-flight checks and instructions brought me back down to earth. Colorless grass became green once again. The dark sky matched the beautiful blue ocean. My legs began to flail with life.
I sprinted down the hill, a mix of controlled poise and reckless abandon. The momentum of my driving feet and the glider attached to my body propelled me into the air, 100 feet to be exact.
I was finally paragliding.
My stomach began turning again, but this time, was ultimately thwarted.
The view was amazing, the experience was even better, and it wouldn't have been possible without the organization of the 30th Force Support Squadron's Outdoor Recreation center.
Outdoor Recreation is responsible for many of the events you've probably heard about that take place off-site of Vandenberg. The all-terrain vehicle adventures, ski trips, base jumps, horseback rides, and kayak expeditions are all made possible by the superb coordination of Outdoor Recreation.
"Our mission at Outdoor Recreation is to provide Airmen and their families an opportunity to take advantage of our many activities," said Veronica Wiens, 30th Force Support Squadron Outdoor Recreation programmer. "Our ultimate goal is to bring a sense of community back to Vandenberg and remind base members that we are here. We have all of this wonderful equipment to rent out to them, and we have a variety of programs and trips to offer Airmen and their families."
One program that is synonymous with Outdoor Recreation is the Single Airman Initiative, a plan that enables single Airmen, such as myself, to participate in diverse and adventurous events year-round.
"Since the inception of the SAI, we have had 75 trips," said Edwina Williams, 30th FSS supervisory recreation specialist. "They're all available at a reasonable price. The transportation is provided for every event so all Airmen have to do is show up to our facility, have a great time, and get dropped back off at our building."
Despite my initial trepidation of paragliding, the experience I gained from the event was not only beneficial, but also morale-inducing. Other Airmen on the trip shared the same analysis.
"Outdoor Recreation is important to the morale of the Airmen because it offers the opportunity to step outside your comfort zone," said Senior Airman Davin Peeples, 30th Comptroller Squadron financial analyst. "Also, the SAI gives you the chance to try things you might never do otherwise. If I wanted to go paragliding on my own, it might cost me more than $200. That's a lot of money to an Airman and I probably wouldn't spend it doing those types of activities, so I really appreciated the opportunity."
For Team V members that want to keep their feet planted firmly on the ground, Outdoor Recreation has equipment that can be used for various other events.
"We have a variety of rental equipment available," said Williams. "Some items include camping equipment, utility and cover trailers, campers, outdoor sporting equipment, chairs, tables, dunk tanks, bounce castles and rock-climbing structures."
Although they already offer a mass of product and activities, Outdoor Recreation is still open to queries and suggestions regarding new items and future events.
"We're here for the people of the base," said Wiens. "We're always open to suggestions that the people of Vandenberg would like to see. We have a comment card so if anyone is interested in a particular item or future event they should fill one out and encourage others to as well."
Now that I have conquered my fear of heights, maybe skydiving will be in my future.
For more information, please contact Outdoor Recreation at 606-5908.