Riding Warriors stress safety
July 8, 2008
FORT HOOD, Texas Aca,!" The ground began to tremble and the air shook with a deep growl. Heads turned to look, but it wasnAca,!a,,ct the muscle car they thought they heard, no, it was quite smaller.
It was a Soldier on a motorcycle; one of about 140 that would show up to the Palmer Theater at Fort Hood, July 1, for the 1st Air Cavalry Aca,!A"WarriorAca,!A? Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, motorcycle safety briefing and ride.
Colonel Douglas Gabram, commander of the Warriors, and Command Sgt. Maj. Glen Vela, the senior non-commissioned officer for the Warriors, are passionate about keeping their Soldiers safe while out on their motorcycles.
With the sad trend of motorcycle accidents constantly rising, Vela didnAca,!a,,ct feel that a motorcycle mentorship program was the best and only answer to saving troopersAca,!a,,c lives because it was on a voluntary basis, said the Dallas native.
When itAca,!a,,cs voluntary, people always find reasons why they canAca,!a,,ct make it. When itAca,!a,,cs mandatory, it ensures maximum participation and reaches a larger audience, he said.
Guest speakers talked on numerous topics, including inspecting a motorcycle before riding, safety equipment and safe riding tips.
Gabram, a Cleveland native, went over numerous statistics and stories detailing how their chosen sport can be deadly if safety isnAca,!a,,ct on their minds at all times.
Aca,!A"This is a dangerous business Aca,!" motorcycling Aca,!" right' You all know that, you chose to accept that risk,Aca,!A? said Gabram.
But if a Soldier willingly violates the rules and regulations put in place by the Army to keep them safe, then thereAca,!a,,cs no excuse, he said.
Most of the stories involved speeding excessively and ended with the loss of life. Gabram wanted to cut these stories off at the head before they involved any of his Soldiers.
Aca,!A"Stay positive, stay alert and take care of each other,Aca,!A? is GabramAca,!a,,cs mantra.
Brigadier Gen. Frederick Rudesheim, the deputy commanding general of support for the 1st Cav. Div., also stressed the importance of keeping excessive speeding down and to constantly be aware of every action made as motorcycle rider.
Rudesheim said that excessive speeding was the leading cause of most motorcycle related accidents.
Vela couldnAca,!a,,ct have agreed more.
Aca,!A"If I can say anything about driving in this local area is itAca,!a,,cs all about defensive driving,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"ItAca,!a,,cs staying out of peopleAca,!a,,cs blind spot, driving within your capabilities, give yourself enough time and just being visible.Aca,!A?
VelaAca,!a,,cs motorcycle safety program far exceeds the basic minimum requirements of Fort Hood which entails passing a basic motorcycle course, said Dallas native Spc. Nicholas Cook, a brigade driver for 1st ACB.
When he moved from Fort Bragg, N.C., he was shocked at everything he had to do just to ride his bike.
Aca,!A"Coming here was really kind of agitating at first because thereAca,!a,,cs so much to do, but now, seeing the fact that they have so many riders, itAca,!a,,cs really good to see that they have all these policies in place,Aca,!A? said Cook.
But it isnAca,!a,,ct only the policies in place that are affecting the safety of the Warriors, said Vela.
Aca,!A"ItAca,!a,,cs all about involved leadership and engaged leadership. We have to show the Soldiers that we care. Not by giving policies and letters and threatening them,Aca,!A? said Vela.
Vela isnAca,!a,,ct the only senior NCO to feel this way.
Aca,!A"The best thing is to just keep letting the Soldiers know that we care about them and to ask them to be safe Aca,!A| and to use their head,Aca,!A? said Sgt. 1st Class Douglas Mauer, one of the Soldiers who helped spearhead the safety program while in Iraq.
Like most seasoned riders, Mauer always has a bit of advice for Soldiers who ride motorcycles.
Aca,!A"I know some of the guys that worked convoys and stuff. (They) learned how to identify dangers like (improvised explosive devices) or potential IEDs,Aca,!A? said Mauer. Aca,!A"ThatAca,!a,,cs the same thing youAca,!a,,cve got to do on motorcycles now days.Aca,!A?
Mauer also believes that because the price of gas has risen and the weather has cleared, more Soldiers are investing time on their motorcycles.
Meanwhile, Vela invested time into his safety program because he knew Soldiers would be riding their motorcycles as soon as possible when they returned from Iraq.
Aca,!A"We started (working the safety program) months before redeployment. We did a lot of academic training down range,Aca,!A? said Vela. Aca,!A"We did five or six classes with a 50 question test.Aca,!A?
Not only that, he even went as far as to schedule the basic motorcycle safety course for Soldiers returning from deployment so that they could attend right when they returned to Fort Hood, he said.
Since theyAca,!a,,cve returned Vela has sent mechanics to KayAca,!a,,cs Motorcycle Mania, a local motorcycle shop, to learn how to correctly inspect motorcycles, said Vela.
His proactive approach to motorcycle safety has caught the eye of the 1st Cav. Div. and has even branched out from there.
Aca,!A"IAca,!a,,cve actually briefed my program to the division safety guys. TheyAca,!a,,cve passed it Army-wide. IAca,!a,,cve gotten emails from Fort Rucker and even Fort Drum,Aca,!A? said Vela.
Although his safety program focuses on the motorcycle riders, Vela had some kind words for other motorist.
Aca,!A"Give us some room! We do have the same right-of-ways as cars, but we donAca,!a,,ct have the same protection as cars,Aca,!A? he said.
Aca,!A"In a hurry-up-and-go world, between people talking on cell phones and being in a hurry, they probably take for granted that itAca,!a,,cs a motorcycle Aca,!" not a car,Aca,!A? said Vela.
Once the Soldiers finished the brief, it was off on a group ride to Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area.
The riders started their engines and once again, pedestrians and other motorists turned their heads towards the loud rumbling coming from Palmer Theater.
They saw 140 shiny motorcycles, 140 Soldiers and 140 smiles.
The ride ended safely and all the motorcycle enthusiasts gathered for a group photo in front of Lake Belton.
Gabram ended the ride officially by letting them know that he cared about the Soldiers safety. He also charged his leaders, both officers and noncommissioned officers, to be vigilant in keeping motorcycle safety in the forefront of their minds.
Afterwards the Soldiers left little by little, each with all their safety equipment on and with a little more information that will keep them and their buddies safer in the future.
The rumbling this time would slowly fade away, but not for too long.
TheyAca,!a,,cll be back.