News: Safety officer combines motorcycles, mentorship
Story by Cpl. Bruno Bego
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Marines go through several months of preparation prior to deploying. They qualify on different ranges and during field training exercises, which prepares them to operate overseas in potentially hostile environments as well as in non-hostile locations.
Upon their return, most Marines are not only more confident, but the majority of them have acquired quite a bit of money in their bank accounts, which will enable some to buy the motorcycle they’ve dreamed of.
Unfortunately, safety might not be their main focus while driving down the main road on their brand-sparkling-new motorcycle. It is, however, the main focus of Staff Sgt. Brent M. Sharp, the 2nd Marine Logistics Group safety chief and motorcycle safety officer, originally from Saint Paul, Minn., who has been riding motorcycles for 34 years.
“We have a pretty broad spectrum [in the safety office]; we cover everything such as laser safety, respiratory protection, radiation safety, hearing conservation, bloodworm pathogens, traffic safety and fire safety,” Sharp said. “Obviously, traffic safety is the most important one because about 76 percent of our mishaps are traffic related.”
Traffic safety covers all aspects of safely operating a motor vehicle, especially motorcycles. In 2008, an article released by CNN explained how 25 Marines died in motorcycle crashes that year. All but one of them involved sport bikes, according to Marine officials. In the same period, 20 Marines were killed in action in Iraq. In response, Marine Corps top leaders implemented a Motorcycle Safety Program.
“I was brought over here as the motorcycle safety officer,” Sharp explained. “It was a brand new billet created by the 2nd MLG commanding general [at the time] because of the [increase in] motorcycle accidents we had.”
Since then, the Motorcycle Safety Program grew in size, and so did Sharp’s experience and knowledge about motorcycle riding. The program is comprised of five different courses specifically design for each individual level of expertise.
“Currently we have five courses on base, the Basic Rider Course, the Experienced Rider Course, the Military Sport Bike Riders Course as well as the All-Terrain Vehicle Safety Institute Course and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Dirt Bike School Course,” he said. “Also, during our free time, all the motorcycle safety officers go and ride together out in town so we can correct each other when riding a motorcycle …. We can’t teach others if we are doing the wrong thing.”
According to Sharp, being a Marine is an honor, but being allowed to mix it with motorcycle-riding safety and mentoring is priceless. All the courses he runs allows him to interact with the Marines and sailors, and mentor on a person-to-person level.
“The students and I share more than one thing in common; we are serving, and we love motorcycles,” he concluded. “Being able to teach motorcycle safety and knowing the [Marines] will go to the street with a good set of skills gives me sense of relief and peace knowing I just saved some lives.”
The Marine Corps Motorcycle Safety Program made mandatory the use of Department of Transportation approved helmets, protective eyewear, long-sleeve shirt and jacket, long trousers, full-fingered leather gloves, hard-soled shoes with heels as well as attending the different motorcycle safety courses. For more information about participating in a motorcycle safety course contact your unit’s safety officer.