News: NC Guard: Leaders in motorcycle safety
Story by Sgt. Leticia Samuels
RALEIGH, N.C. - Chief Warrant Officer 3 Thomas Anspach, North Carolina National Guard’s assistant state training officer, is the first N.C. Guardsman to graduate from the N.C. Highway Patrol’s Bike Safe assessor’s course on July 18, 2014, in Raleigh. Anspach, an active duty Guardsman of 23 years, is also the lead motorcycle instructor for the state.
“This is a great opportunity, and I feel truly blessed to go through this course,” said Anspach.
Bike Safe is an initiative of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program in partnership with law enforcement agencies like the N.C. Highway Patrol (NCHP). Bike Safe has different levels of motorcycle training that goes deeper into bike safety by sharpening the rider’s situational awareness using classroom based instruction and advice and on-the-road observed riding.
“We are assessing each student’s current skills on public roads,” said Anspach.
Bike Safe was mirrored after the world-famous Bike Safe program taught by the Metropolitan Police Department of London. The program was needed after the highway patrol saw an increase in motorcycle fatalities. In Wake County, the highway patrol received some leadership and guidelines on how to create their own version of the program, which became a success in 2007.
“It gives riders a different perspective. This class is unique because right now this is the only on the road assessment in North Carolina,” said State Bike Safe Coordinator Sgt. Mike Conwell, NCHP and a lead instructor in the program.
Conwell has over 100 assessors across the state and five regional coordinators that manage all training pertaining to Bike Safe. The 23-year veteran to the highway patrol also assigns local law enforcement motorcycle units to follow and assess riders during the three-day course.
During the course, riders receive an even amount of classroom time and on-the-road assessment, which contributes to building a safer mindset in everyday traffic. The road assessment consists of a 30-minute ride and a one-hour ride.
N.C. Guard also had two seasoned motorcycle riders successfully complete the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Rider Coach "Trainer" course given by the West Virginia National Guard. Master Sgt. Robert Baker, NCNG state domestic operations noncommissioned officer, and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Garry Perry, a C-26 pilot and a UH-60 instructor pilot, went through the course with nine other Guardsman and one civilian.
“I hope to be able to help take our motorcycle safety program to the next level by promoting motorcycle safety at the highest levels. Ultimately, I want to have an impact on rider choices and safety throughout the state at the lowest levels and save that life that’s not only a soldier or airman but a brother, sister, mother or father,” said Perry.
The course was two-weeks-long that included three days of motorcycle range exercises, and classroom instruction combining peer teaching and student teaching. This bike safety course will allow the NCNG to conduct Rider Coach Trainer Prep courses within the state without depending on other states or agencies.
Before completing this course in West Virginia, there were only two Guard soldiers that held this certification nationwide, but now there are 10 across the East Coast and the N.C. Guard holds two of those 10 slots.
“All these courses are just another tool in the toolbox, not only for the state, but for us to offer soldiers and airmen something else to further their skills,” said Anspach. “Being a motorcyclist, you’re going to get some training just from being out there on the road but sometimes you have to slow down to speed up and these riders here today, are slowing down, sitting in a classroom getting some good information from experienced officers.”
Before this training, Anspach was only able to instruct the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic and Experienced Rider courses on a closed circuit to soldiers and airmen. Now he is a registered motorcycle assessor able to accurately instruct and grade Guard soldiers, airmen and public citizens.
“It’s a chance for me, the NCHP and Raleigh Police Department to do some mentorship with the public. It’s an opportunity for the law enforcement agencies to have a different face with the public,” Anspach replied.
Since 2006, the NCNG has lost a total of nine Soldiers due to motorcycle accidents. We started teaching motorcycle safety in 2005, and none of the individuals who have attended our training have been involved in a fatal accident and only one has been involved in a serious accident.
Combining all of these new motorcycle training credentials, the N.C. Guard can now be a host agency to administer motorcycle education classes at Joint Force Headquarters and other locations in the state, free of charge and makes North Carolina the first National Guard state in the nation to offer this unique program.
“First and foremost, we all want to keep our soldiers and airmen safe. We’re going to be able to assess their skills on their bikes, on real roads, and get involved with our local communities.” said Anspach.