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Nearly 20 sportsters, hogs and touring bikes lined up Friday in front of 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment, headquarters. Their riders, including NCOs, officers, retirees and Army civilians, listened to a few last-minute safety announcements before heading on their way a 100-mile round-trip to Pine Mountain, Ga.
The ride is a quarterly event for the 199th Infantry Brigades Motorcycle Mentor program. Usually, rides are coordinated on a battalion level, but this time, the entire brigade participated.
Its about safety, said Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Easterling, Motorcycle Mentor leader for the 2nd Battalion. The whole thing behind the Motorcycle Mentorship program is to incorporate new riders and (anyone) interested in riding a motorcycle. Were trying to educate riders who may not know the dangers of being a motorcycle rider and what the motorcycle can actually do. It can be fun and safe at the same time.
As part of the program, and in line with Fort Bennings policy, military personnel who own motorcycles must take a series of courses offered at Lawson Army Airfield. The first, the Basic Rider Course, allows individuals to receive certification to ride motorcycles on post. Afterward, Soldiers take either the Experienced Rider Course or the Sports Rider Course, based on the type of bike they own. Soldiers coming back from deployment take Motorcycle Refresher Training.
But the Motorcycle Mentor program is more than just classes.
A lot of it is camaraderie between the riders, Easterling said, just to share knowledge among riders. With motorcycle riding, you can never stop learning. Ive been riding for about 16 years and Im still learning.
Sgt. 1st Class Eugene Stabenow, who started riding in 2005, said he appreciates being part of the units Motorcycle Mentor program, which hes been involved with since he PCSed to post from Fort Campbell, Ky., last year.
Its a good program to ensure everyones on the same level of understanding and to ensure that inexperienced riders gets the proper education before they get out there on a bike, said Stabenow, operations NCO with 2nd Bn., 11th Inf. Regt.
When I first started riding, you werent even required to wear a helmet, he said. There wasnt a whole lot of education on how to ride a motorcycle it was just get out and learn as you go. I learned a lot of things the hard way. The program gives people the opportunity to come in with no riding experience whatsoever, learn how to ride properly and be able to get out on the road safely.
Stabenow said he believes the program is particularly important when it comes to redeploying Soldiers.
You get a lot of Soldiers returning from deployment who want something to replace some of that adrenaline they had during combat situations, said Stabenow, whose most recent deployment was in 2010. Its easy to go out and get a motorcycle that will do 200 mph in a minute and a half. We need to make sure when they redeploy they get proper education.
Part of that education is making sure Soldiers are aware of the personal protective equipment they must wear while riding: shatter-proof glasses, bright colors by day and reflective material by night, long-sleeve shirts, long pants, over-the-ankle boots and a helmet that meets Department of Transportation standards. Easterling said riders are also kept current with post policies and procedures relating to motorcycle riding.
Participation in the brigades program has grown, the NCO said, and now numbers more than 40 riders.
Fridays quarterly ride, which counts toward the programs sustainment training, included a break for lunch and stops at two local dealerships where dealers conducted safety inspections on bikes to show common safety deficiencies.