News: 'Wagonmasters' focus on safety with motorcycle ride
Story by Staff Sgt. Rob Strain
By Staff Sgt. Rob Strain
15th Sustainment Brigade
FORT HOOD, Texas – About 60 motorcycle riders from the 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), gathered, Oct. 17, 2008, at the brigade's headquarters on Fort Hood for a day focused on motorcycle safety.
The day started with a safety inspection of the riders' motorcycles, conducted by their supervisors, some of whom had never before conducted such an in-depth inspection.
Dave Sullivan, the brigade's safety officer, explained that one of the day's goals was for non-riders to know what to look for when conducting a safety inspection of a motorcycle.
The riders walked through the inspection process, showing their supervisor exactly what to look for at each step of the inspection, and how things are different on different types of bikes.
"I can actually go and put my hands on somebody else's bike and know what to look for," said Staff Sgt. Blane Davis, a West Palm Beach, Fla., native, 53rd Quartermaster Company, 180th Transportation Battalion. "See if it is really safe or not - to be on the road."
Sullivan said it was important that the leaders are actually learning what to look for on their Soldiers' motorcycles because they need to ensure the Soldiers' bikes are actually safe.
"Don't just check the block," Sullivan said to the leaders, referring to the inspection checklist.
Col. Larry Phelps, the brigade's commander and native of Greenville, Ala., said situational awareness is an important skill riders need to have at all times.
"Riding a motorcycle by itself is not only not a bad thing, it's not an inherently dangerous thing," Phelps said. "It's how you ride, where you ride, who you ride with, and it's also being very aware of your surroundings at all times."
He explained that often times, it is other drivers on the road not paying attention that can cause accidents involving motorcycles.
"My primary concern for your safety is not what you all do," said Phelps, who, even though he currently does not own a bike, has been a motorcycle rider for a number of years. "The most dangerous thing about riding a bike is not what I was doing - it was what everybody else was doing."
The safety ride was about a 20 mile course to Belton, where the Soldiers had the opportunity for lunch and a discussion on some of the issues that riders of different types of motorcycles face.
In their two discussion groups, which were broken down into cruiser riders and sport bike riders, the Soldiers talked about things like maintenance, protective equipment types and styles, and even where they could go to get their fix for speed safely, on a race track.
Phelps also talked to the riders about the associations they make with motorcycle clubs, explaining that there are many good ones out there, but there are also many that encourage reckless behavior – such as riding on one wheel through traffic at a high rate of speed.
"People truly are judged by the company they keep," Phelps said. "There are some groups of folks that ride motorcycles that give all of us a really black eye."
He went on to say that the day was about sitting down with other riders that care about what "right" looks like, not about initiation into any clubs, except the club of common sense.
Phelps told the Soldiers that if they happen to find themselves in a situation where they are with people doing dangerous things with their motorcycles, they need to get away from it as fast as possible.
He also encouraged the Soldiers to be mentors to fellow riders - showing them what right looks like.
According to Sullivan, there have been six motorcycle accidents within the brigade this year, none of them fatal.