News: Motorcycle rally reminds road warriors to ride safe
Story by Sgt. Richard Andrade
FORT BLISS, Texas – On a chilly Thursday morning, Nov. 15, the sound of thunder could be heard without a single rain cloud in the sky along Highway 54, as hundreds of motorcycle engines roared on a convoy from Fort Bliss to White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
Team Bliss conducted the Fall Joint Armed Forces Motorcycle Safety Rally and Ride, which was open to all soldiers, Department of Defense civilians and the El Paso community to promote motorcycle safety. In order to take part in the rally, each rider had to have the proper safety equipment, a Motorcycle Safety Foundation card, proof of insurance, a motorcycle driver’s license and registration.
The number of riders doubled by the minute as the 9 a.m. departure time drew closer. Those that didn't pre-register had to have their bikes inspected by unit motorcycle mentors who made sure the riders had proper paperwork and personal protective equipment before rolling out. The group of Soldiers and civilians varied just like the motorcycles they rode, with each one reflecting their personalities. Sport bikes parked next to choppers, dirt bikes and even 3-wheel street cruisers took over the once empty Freedom Crossing parking lot, turning it into a sea of chrome and vibrant paint.
Before the road warriors left Fort Bliss, they were given a safety briefing from the division motorcycle mentor, Lt. Col. Jason Halloren, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, based out of Fort Bliss, Texas.
The Detroit native said the motorcycle safety rally was an esprit de corps building event for all motorcycle enthusiasts. Halloren motivated the motorcyclists by reminding them what the rally was all about: proper training, addressing riding hazards, the value of personal protective equipment and the proper maintenance of their bikes.
“Because of how we conduct it, the safety rally is a learning event for novice riders. The rally not only brings awareness to safety, but it also brings the local community and soldiers together,” said Halloren.
“If one of us goes down, it was all for nothing,” added Halloren. “We will ride together and will come back together.”
With a police escort, the riders left Freedom Crossing on Fort Bliss and headed to White Sands Missile Range. After refueling, they consolidated with other riders from WSMR and Holloman Air Force Base. The motorcade of more than 300 bikes then convoyed back to Fort Bliss for contests and other entertainment.
“I like the cohesiveness; I think it's really nice how the safety rally brings the troops, both active and retired together,” said Judi Palmer, a native of Deming, N.M. “The support and respect that we see from everybody is very encouraging.”
Her husband, John Palmer, a retired U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class, said he and his wife both ride and altogether have four motorcycles in their family. The Palmers have participated in past two motorcycle safety rallies. The native of Upstate, N.Y., said he and his wife each own a motorcycle, but this time they rode together on one bike.
Judi, who works in the emergency room at William Beaumont Army Medical Center as a nurse, has seen the effects of motorcycle injuries firsthand. Despite treating motorcycle accident patients, it has not deterred her and her husband from riding; instead, it makes them ride with more caution whenever they are on the road.
“Safety is always an important factor because we enjoy riding, we just make sure and ride defensively,” she said. “Fort Bliss is a huge part of the community, everybody needs to be aware and look out for motorcycle riders.”
Most riders arrived with cold-weather gloves and other equipment in anticipation of a cold El Paso morning. The day began with a slight chill in the air but as the sun came up, the temperature rose, and some riders took off their cold-weather gear.
“The weather was on our side. It was cold in the morning but by midday it warmed up nicely.” said Sgt. 1st Class Steven Castro assigned to Company A, WBAMC, after his ride back from WSMR.
The native of Hollywood, Calif., has been riding for over 27 years and said his brigade has 57 riders total, including soldiers and civilians. Castro is his brigade's Motorcycle Mentorship Program representative and said he was glad the ride went well.
The goal of the MMP is to promote responsible motorcycle riding in order to reduce motorcycle accidents and fatalities by using volunteer mentors to educate both new and experienced riders about the importance of PPE and the maintenance of bikes with proper training.
Castro said the police escort and motorcycle mentors did a good job keeping the riders in synch during the ride.
“When I looked in my rearview mirror there were motorcycles as far as I could see,” said Castro. “I can't wait to ride again in the next safety rally.”
The road can be dangerous, especially for a motorcycle rider but with more safety rallies bringing awareness to both riders and non-riders, Fort Bliss can keep their soldiers safe.