HEADING OUT ON THE HIGHWAY, LOOKING FOR ADVENTURE
FORT HOOD, Texas — Waaahhh, WAAHHH, Varoom, VAROOM, these were the sounds that filled the air at the Brigade Troops Battalion’s Motor Pool Nov. 29 for a Motorcycle Safety Stand Down Day for the 4th Sustainment Brigade.
The sounds represented all different classes of motorcycles from a moped to Harleys, from cruisers to sport bikes; owners brought all makes to the meeting place.
Due to the increasing number of riders in the military, the Army Combat Readiness Center has published recommendations for the formation of unit motorcycle mentorship programs to combat the rising rate of motorcycle accidents.
This program’s main function is to build camaraderie within a unit, to pair seasoned and inexperienced riders to stop bad habits from forming and to keep from becoming complacent.
Over the course of the Motorcycle Safety Stand Down Day for the 4th SB, Chief Warrant Officer William Caldwell, the senior motorcycle mentor for the brigade and a maintenance officer with the 96th Transportation Company, gave a briefing for the riders who attended.
The briefer covered the route that was to be taken and checked all riders to see if they were in compliance with Army regulations regarding motorcycle riding and motorcycle maintenance.
Caldwell and the other battalion mentors validate all required documentation including registration, rider’s course certification, license and insurance, personal protective equipment and checked each motorcycle over.
“The ride was fantastic, it was safe and we had a great turn out today,” said Caldwell.
“When I was chosen to be the mentor for the brigade by Col. Terence Hermans, the 4th SB commanding officer, I was ecstatic, everybody wants to be in a position to make changes and I’m in one now,” Caldwell said.
“[People] hate to see an accident because of inexperience and because nobody talked to them,” said Caldwell, “it doesn’t matter if you’ve been riding for 30 years or 30 minutes, there is always something to learn, and hopefully this program can provide that.”
“As a mentor, I get to talk to the Soldiers, help them get structured and keep them safe,” he said, “everybody is on the same level here, no matter what the rank is.”
“We plan on doing this every month, and if every month I look in my side mirrors and see the formation, it’s going to be a beautiful thing.”
The Army requires that all motorcycle riders wear personal protective equipment which includes the wear of a helmet, eye protection, a high-visibility upper garment by day and a retro-reflective garment at night, pants that cover the whole leg, closed finger gloves, and over-the-heel shoes.
Several riders that attended the gathering where found to be lacking in their documents, PPE or motorcycle maintenance and were sent back to their units and grounded until their issues are corrected.
Once the checks were completed, guest rider Col. Kenneth King, the support operations officer for the 13th Sustainment Command (expeditionary) said a few words.
“It’s a real honored to be out here, I’m a hardcore rider myself, and I felt that it was important that I took off the whole day to come out here, and important enough for the [commanding general] to let me take off,” he said.
“[Everybody] needs to take this seriously, because even the most experienced riders can have a problem,” said King, “[everyone] needs to reflect on safety and learn something new out here.”
“[Motorcycle riders] need to pay attention to not only what you are doing, but what everybody else is doing,” King said, “[riders] need to watch out for other drivers who are talking on their cell phones, have kids in the back, drinking coffee and smoking, those are the dangerous ones.”
Once the checks were completed, the motorcycle riders lined up by battalion to go ride.
Riders were identified by motorcycle experience and mentored accordingly to include their positioning within the riding formation.
Inexperienced riders were at the front of their battalion formations so that their respective motorcycle mentors could watch them as they were introduced to new experiences on their bikes.
Riders left the motor pool and headed out for the first 45-mile leg of the journey that took them through the picturesque scenery of the Fort Hood area countryside.
The route was chosen due to the fact that it was seldom traveled by motorists and the roads constantly changed to introduce inexperienced riders to them.
The roads went from city, country, highway, and interstate which challenged even the most experienced riders to be more aware of their surroundings.
After the first leg was completed, the riders rode to a gas station to top off their tanks in preparation for their second-leg to Temple and lunch.
At the gas station, local civilians stopped by and chatted with riders and took pictures of them.
Once back on the road, the riders rode to BJ’s Brewhouse to have lunch while the battalion mentors conducted an after-action-review with Caldwell.
After lunch, the formation saddled up again to ride down the interstate toward Fort Hood, and to the BTB motor pool to conduct an AAR and to release the Soldiers back to their units.
“I thought the ride was great,” said King, “it focused on safety from the get-go, and you can never learn enough about motorcycle riding.”
“The formation went well, it was organized and had traffic control set up which made things nice and smooth,” he said.
“Being a biker means a lot of things, and to many different people,” said King, “it is a passion that is hard to explain, when working out can’t release my tension, I can go out and ride and it’s like getting everything blown off.”
“I feel like I’m a new person and have a whole new perspective on life,” he said.
“I love everything about the bike and everything that it represents,” said King, “we are all a family and the bike is the common bond.”
“Even though it’s freedom when [your] on the road,” said King, “ it’s a cautious freedom, you can never let your guard down, because a deer might jump out or a car can come out, that is when experience comes in, how you react to a given situation.
“Riding today, I felt free,” said Pvt. Ryan P. Carlisle, a member of the 62nd Quartermaster Company, “it was like riding in a picture book.”
“Riding a bike, you can’t look at your watch, answer your phone or do anything else but ride the bike, and that is the best part of it,” said Carlisle.
“Today, we went back to the basics, and if anybody, whatever their experience level, if [they] can help a fellow rider to get the experience to avoid dying one day, that’s what needs to happen, and this program will do that,” he said.
“I am a better rider because of this opportunity today,” said King.