Relieving stress the 4x4 way, Airmen hit the trails

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Colin Cates
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
As the sun begins to shine through the morning desert sky, a driver approaches the face of a bluff. Three all-terrain vehicles ahead of him each proceed to crawl over the five-foot boulder blocking their path. Without hesitation, the driver pressed on the accelerator and ascended the uneven rocks, in the process bending and flexing his 4x4 vehicle frame like a human contortionist.

With only two of its tires on the ground through most of the course so far, the boulder was just another obstacle in its path. Then, with two of its wheels on the wall of the bluff, the vehicle flew down the boulder as if it were on the down side of a roller coaster. With two of its headlights smashed, the vehicle's driver smiled as he looked in his rear-view mirror to see the line of vehicles behind him attempt to crawl over the same boulder.

The scenario above was just part of Master Sgt. James, (last name withheld due to operations security) experience during the 23rd Annual Chile Challenge, an Off-Road Trail event, in Las Cruces, N.M., Feb. 20-23.

According to the event flyer, the Chile Challenge, sponsored by the Las Cruces Four-Wheel Drive Club, gave drivers of all experience levels the opportunity to ride on trails led by an experienced trail leader. Because the event was not a competition, each driver was able to enjoy the challenge of the trail at their own pace.

For James and other Airmen, off-roading and rock-crawling events like the Chile Challenge provide a positive outlet to release stressors incurred from work and other daily activities.

"My job has caused some real hardships for me and when I go off-roading, it helps keep my mind busy and in a better place," James said. "People can enjoy off roading in so many different ways from becoming a serious off-roader, to being a weekend warrior, or just tagging along for a ride."

Off-roading and rock-crawling can also give Airmen a sense of belonging, said Staff Sgt. Mark Morris, 7th Fighter Squadron weapons load crew chief.

"This has become a huge passion of mine, and a lot of that has to do with the camaraderie at these events," Morris said. "You meet people you don't know that are just as excited about off-roading as you are. Everybody just wants to have a good time and people feed off each other's excitement and positivity. I've made some really good friends and connections from off-roading, and some of my best memories I have were from being at these events meeting people and just having fun."

Because Southern New Mexico has some of the best off-road trails he's seen, Morris said his time at Holloman AFB has been memorable.

"I love being stationed here because the surrounding area is perfect for off-roading," Morris said. "It's so important to get out of the dorms or your house to go see what the community has to offer. I think New Mexico off-roading is some of the best in the county. It's really important to expand your horizons and meet new people and enjoy life to the fullest."