Retired Soldier shares knowledge, passion of cycling with new enthusiasts
August 1, 2013
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Erik Modisett knew how to ride a bike when he arrived at Fort Jackson three months ago. He had the fundamental balance and coordination skills most people pick up as children, and hoped it would be enough to help him combine his daily commute to class with a rigorous, lowimpact exercise regimen. Equipped with an inexpensive mountain bike and an optimistic attitude, he put his plan in motion.
Looking back, he said it was a plan that was doomed to failure.
"I had no experience with cycling before coming here," said Modisett, a federal investigator enrolled in National Center for Credibility Assessment (NCCA) classes at Fort Jackson. "I brought a community-type bike with me, but had no experience with road biking. I asked the adviser I had if she knew of anybody who could help me out with routes, and she told me about Chuck."
Charles "Chuck" Cornwell, a supervisory staff officer at NCCA, was familiar with Modisett's situation. A retired Army colonel and former chief of staff at Fort Benning, Ga., Cornwell remembered a time when he decided to pursue cycling and found himself ill-equipped for the task. A young lieutenant colonel at Fort Benning provided advice and training, gestures of generosity that added to his chances of success in the hobby.
"I appreciated that, and still do to this day," Cornwell said. "It's sort of the circle of life. You get to be the teacher, then you get to be the student. (Modisett) was the student for the last few months, but he's going to be the teacher now. And now he's going to teach bike riding to someone else.
"I'm always willing to pass on what little I know about cycling," Cornwell said.
Modisett said his mentor wasted no time in introducing him to advanced cycling techniques. The day after the two men first spoke about the hobby, Cornwell showed up with an expensive bicycle, shoes, gloves and other related equipment for Modisett.
"There were no questions asked," Modisett said. "I had no experience, but he didn't care. He just threw me out there. That's the kind of guy we've been dealing with from the beginning. He's just gone above and beyond in everything he did."
Cornwell said Modisett proved to be an aggressive learner, never balking at any of the training ideas thrown his way.
"He dove in the deep end of the pool," Cornwell said.
"Others are a little more cautious. When you're at Fort Jackson and have safe areas to ride and other people to ride with, you're OK. But if you don't have a safe area to ride in, you need to take a more cautious approach when taking up cycling. Not all states, not all roads, have cyclistfriendly motorists. There's always competition for the road, and that's the biggest danger of all."
Chase Bynog, another student enrolled in classes at the NCCA, said Cornwell was a father figure to many of visitors to the post.
"He was kind of a dad to us," Bynog said. "Everybody at the school is away from their families for three and a half months. Cornwell really went out of his way to make us feel at home, and he didn't have to do that. He's kind of adopted us."
"He constantly makes his home available to us," Modisett said. "He's given me the key to his house. He never thinks about what's in it for him. He's always trying to do for somebody else."
Since coming to Fort Jackson, Modisett has gone from novice to expert. He's participated in local charity rides, and has put a few thousand miles under the wheels of his bicycle on trails throughout the region.
"I love it. I hope it's something I can keep doing, once I get home," he said. "It's been my method of staying with exercise and to keep moving. I tried running, but that's so hard on your body. I just love cycling. Every day I get up and want to go. Had Chuck not helped me get into this, I probably would have given up on cycling."