By By Sgt. Nancy DeweeseAugust 19, 2009
For more than 20 years now, Chuck Hutch has been a cyclist. When he was 15 years old, he got an after-school job as a bicycle messenger, a job he continued to do as he went through college and adulthood. About six months after starting as a bicycle messenger, Hutch began racing in small cycling races on the west coast near his home in Sacramento, Ca.
Although he enjoyed racing enough to continue the sport over the years, he was not able to compete at a significant level until after he became Pfc. Charles Hutcheson, an infantryman with the U.S. Army.
He had to give up his bike for several months while he was training at Fort Benning, Ga., but after he was assigned to the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), he got back on track and began to get into cycling once more.
Although his new career afforded him less time on a bike, Hutcheson found that being a Soldier and living the military lifestyle has helped him become a much better competitor - so much so that after three years of being a Soldier, he won the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship - Virginia State Championship for Road Bicycle Racing at Page Valley, Va., on August 9.
"Being in the military has been such a good thing for me," said Hutcheson. "The getting used to waking up early, the diet, and the consistency and attention to working out has bumped my level of being an athlete a lot. I got stagnant before. I was keeping fit, but it just never seemed to happen."
Since joining the Army, Hutcheson, 37, says he is a stronger cyclist than ever now, despite having duties that had him riding horses rather than bicycles. Hutcheson spent most of his time at The Old Guard as a member of the Caisson Platoon.
The Old Guard's Caisson platoon is the only one of its kind in the Army. The Soldiers of the platoon are responsible for riding and caring for the horses that carry veterans and Soldiers to their final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery.
More recently, Hutcheson has been assigned to the training room of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion. Hutcheson, who has been promoted to the rank of corporal, is responsible for ensuring that the paperwork for the Soldiers of his company is in order.
Although his work at The Old Guard requires almost 10 hours of work each day five days a week, Hutcheson says being a Soldier has helped him become a better cyclist.
"Since joining the Army, all of the sudden the lifestyle has bumped me up so now I'm better than I ever was," said Hutcheson. "I'm older now, you know' I should be on the down, but I'm not. I attribute everything to the military lifestyle for sure."
During the off-season of 2008-2009, Hutcheson amped up his training by bicycling from his home in Fort Belvoir, Va., to Fort Myer, home of The Old Guard. The trip is more than 20 miles one way. Hutcheson spent most of his lunch hour on the bicycle as well, often biking 25 miles to ensure a 75-mile day each day. On the weekends, he would ride 75-150 miles.
Hutcheson's dedication has paid off. He is on the Battley Harley Davidson Team, which in 2008 was ranked the number one amateur team in the U.S. He is also a member of the Armed Forces Cycling Team, a team of elite military cyclists who will be competing for the 22nd World Military Championship in Ireland in September.
Armed Forces team sports director Lt. Col. William Jacobus, who acts as Hutcheson's coach, is enthusiastic about Hutcheson's chances at the upcoming race next month.
"He is one of the strongest military cyclists we've had on the Armed Forces team in a long time," he said. "He's known as an 'all-arounder' - he climbs well, he sprints well, and does well in tough conditions like rain and wind."
The team will choose its leader once the athletes arrive in Ireland and are able to assess the terrain there.
"He's one of our strongest guys. Whether he's a team leader or a support member, he's a very strong addition to the squad," said Jacobus.
Hutcheson can expect to meet some fierce competition at the event, said Jacobus. "There will be several top athletes from around the world," he said. "It'll be a great chance for Chuck to compete against some of the best cyclists in the world."
During the weeks leading up to the competition, Hutcheson will continue to do his duty as a Soldier while juggling his cycling and his family - his wife and four children. Despite the challenge, Hutcheson continues to hang on to his motivation. "I love winning," he said. "I love the feeling. That's my motivation."
Hutcheson's leaders at The Old Guard are also watching his progress as well, and are supportive. Their support is critical, said Jacobus. "The Armed Forces Cycling Team is only able to compete at this level due to the support of our commanders in the units we come from," he said. "It's a very, very tough competition."