180th Transportation leads the way for the 4th Sustainment Brigade

Story and Photos by Spc. John D. Ortiz
13th SC(E) Public Affairs Office

FORT HOOD, Texas — The 180th Transportation Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), is on track to be first in the brigade to establish a motorcycle mentorship program.

The purpose of a motorcycle mentorship program according to the Army Safety Center is to “establish… [a] motorcycle club, where less experienced and seasoned riders can create a supportive environment of responsible motorcycle riding and enjoyment.”

The idea was proposed by Master Sgt. James L. Howard, the Support Operations Noncommissioned Officer-in-Charge for the battalion, after talking to Soldiers who rode.

Howard was stunned to learn that Soldiers didn’t know the safety regulations that the Army established, “they would just buy a motorcycle...and ride it.” “If Soldiers are out there doing something as dangerous as motorcycle riding, somebody has to make it known to them,” he said.

Army studies have shown that a large majority of motorcycle accidents involving Soldiers occurred soon after redeployment or during mid-tour leave, and most often resulted in significant injury or death.

With the study in mind, several goals for the program aim to reduce motorcycle accidents Soldiers have, build camaraderie within the unit, and to stop bad habits from forming.

“People tend to become apathetic, but if you come together on a regular basis and talk about [motorcycle safety] and actually go out and do it; it tends to keep things fresh on the mind,” Howard said.

Though it is required for motorcycle riders who ride on post to take either a beginner or experienced course taught by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, the one drawback is that it is Army specific, and does not deal with the local communities’ rules and regulations regarding motorcycle riding.

But once established, the program will invite local law enforcement officers as guest speakers to talk to the riders on state and local laws, and to answer any questions they may have.

Hearing that an NCO is trying to establish a motorcycle mentorship program at the 180th Transportation Battalion, Robert ‘Bob’ Garza, the 4th Sustainment Brigade Tactical Safety Specialist, thinks that it’s “a great idea.”

Having more than six years of experience in the safety field, first as an aviation safety officer and then as a Department of the Army Civilian employee, Garza believes that safety is first and foremost.

Even though motorcycle programs are recommended by the Army Safety Center, Garza was not surprised that the brigade did not have one, “the unit had just redeployed and the program had just been developed by the safety center,” he said.

But he is glad that an NCO is taking charge and trying to develop a program, “I have personally met Master Sergeant Howard and feel that he has a very good ethic for [motorcycle] riding and believes very strongly in safety,” Garza said.

The common factor in motorcycle accidents is an inexperienced rider, a high rate of speed, and a loss of control, and “usually a high rate of speed is not necessary, [the rider] just gets out there, gets excited and tries to see what the bike can do,” he said.

The program tries to halt that type of behavior, by joining new riders with experienced ones to show them they can “enjoy the motorcycle and have the thrill and excitement of riding without putting themselves at risk,” said Garza.

“Even though [the program] is just starting out, I hope that the program will become a well established, well respected group that respects each other,” he said.

The brigade aims to have a mandatory monthly motorcycle awareness meeting for its motorcycle riders, where inspections of personal protective equipment and motorcycles are done to make sure everyone is on the same page, followed by a motorcycle related safety class, culminating with a motorcycle ride.

The next motorcycle meeting for the 4th SB is scheduled for Nov. 29, beginning at 1 p.m. at the Brigade Troops Battalion Motor pool. Brigade motorcycle riders are required to attend, and should contact Master Sgt. James L. Howard at (254) 287-6690 if they have any questions.