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MX to MXS: Joy of motocross keeps Airman stress free

Senior Airman Zach Buccieri, 22nd Maintenance Squadron hydraulics specialist, places a nut on a KC-135 Stratotanker inner fuel tube, July 28, 2015, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. Buccieri rides motocross to relieve stress, make friends and express himself. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Christopher Thornbury)

Senior Airman Zach Buccieri, 22nd Maintenance Squadron hydraulics specialist, places a nut on a KC-135 Stratotanker inner fuel tube, July 28, 2015, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. Buccieri rides motocross to relieve stress, make friends and express himself. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Christopher Thornbury)

Senior Airman Zach Buccieri, 22nd Maintenance Squadron aircraft hydraulics specialist, practices jumping ramps on a dirt bike, July, 2015, in Bennett, Colo. Riding dirt bikes has been a hobby, form of expression and way of life for Buccieri. (Courtesy photo)

Senior Airman Zach Buccieri, 22nd Maintenance Squadron aircraft hydraulics specialist, practices jumping ramps on a dirt bike, July, 2015, in Bennett, Colo. Riding dirt bikes has been a hobby, form of expression and way of life for Buccieri. (Courtesy photo)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- Traveling 70 mph while flying isn't a big deal to many people, but when that involves flying reaches 140 feet at high speeds on a 250 pound, two-wheel vehicle without wings life become exciting.

Motocross racing on the weekends provides the ultimate getaway from the stressors of work for Senior Airman Zach Buccieri, 22nd Maintenance Squadron aircraft hydraulics specialist.

"It's a way of life," Buccieri expressed. "It's one way I feel that I can express myself and even though it is a very intense sport, it relaxes me."

Buccieri described the feeling of hitting a large ramp.

"I am leaned back, my boots on the rear of the foot pegs to get as much traction to the rear tire as possible. The throttle is wide open, transmission is in fourth or fifth gear, pushing the bike as fast as I can and lifting off the ramp," Buccieri said. "As I'm flying through the air my jersey is flapping in the wind, it feels like I'm on a roller coaster."

At seven years old, he took interest in riding when he saw his neighbors riding up and down the street on their little peewee dirt bikes.

"I was just crazy about them," Buccieri said. "I told my dad, 'I want one!'"

There was just one problem, he didn't know how to ride a bicycle, and his father said he would not get him a dirt bike until he learned to ride a bicycle first.

For the next couple weeks, every day after school Buccieri taught himself how to ride his bike in the yard. The grass was difficult to pedal in, causing him to fall often, but with determination he would brush himself and try again and again.

One evening, his dad came home from work and suggested that he ride in the street, after seeing he was having trouble in the yard. With much less restriction he rode with ease and the rest fell into place.

Buccieri took to motocross racing so well that he was ranked one of the top 15 riders in amateur class throughout the nation and sponsored by several companies as a teenager.

When he was 15, his family could no longer afford to keep him in the sport and had to give up on his passion.

"It was a depressing time," said Buccieri. "For those eight years that I didn't ride, I thought about it every day."

After coming home from a deployment, he bought his 250cc Yamaha dirt bike to be his sidekick in fighting gravity.

"It brought me out of depression issues," said Buccieri. "It was awesome. I love riding, it makes me feel free."

For most riders there is nothing more fun than hitting jumps and winning trophies, but for Buccieri the most enjoyable thing is sharing memories with others.

"My favorite aspect of motocross is going out and racing with friends," he said.

"He seems to be in complete control when others are all over the place," said Senior Airman Paul Keith, 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. "He has a grace and style on the bike that is super fun to watch, and inspires less talented riders like myself to try and rise to that level."

Riding has been a great way to meet friends, mentor and build friendships for Buccieri.

"I have made many lifelong friends through riding, but none that have shared my military experience like Buccieri," said Keith. "I feel very blessed to have him as a friend and riding coach."

Buccieri has been in the Air Force for nearly five years. He came in as a combat controller, but was injured after seven months of training. He was reclassed and has been an aircraft hydraulics specialist ever since. He primarily works with fixing or replacing hydraulics on the KC-135 Stratotanker airframe, as well as performs isochronical inspections and troubleshooting.

Once his contract is complete, he plans to separate and follow his father's footsteps and become a firefighter.

"The Air Force has given me great avenues, but I think that the best thing for me to do is separate and become a Denver firefighter," said Buccieri. "I love being a patriot and serving my country, but I want to be able to impact peoples' lives more intimately and immediately."

Even though he plans to separate from the military he still wants to serve people and plans to ride as long as he can.

"I would do it all again," said Buccieri. "Motocross has been a way of life for me for a long time, it has been an avenue of expression, and it has been there for me during the hard times."