FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The roar of motorcycle engines filled the early-morning air May 10 as a crowd of nearly 200 motorcycle riders and enthusiasts gathered outside the headquarters building.

They came to kick off Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month with an inspection and a group ride to and from Panama City, Fla.

The ride was also conducted to promote "motorcycle mentorship," a program aimed at pairing more experienced riders with less experienced ones. It was also time for a motorcycle safety inspection, one of the quarterly inspections the 1st Aviation Brigade conducts each year.

"This is a perfect opportunity to promote mentorship," Sgt. William Self, of 1st Avn. Bde. and a rider for 22 years, said. "When we started putting this inspection together, it was just for our unit but it quickly grew to be post-wide. It\'s really great to have so many people come out to participate."

U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker Commanding General Maj. Gen. James O. Barclay III greeted the riders and led them out to the Daleville Gate on his own motorcycle.

"I wish I could ride with you all day," Barclay said. "As we approach the summer months, we like to get out on them more." Barclay cautioned the riders to be mindful of their surroundings and each other while making the trek to Panama City.

"Do what you can to protect yourselves," he said. "Over the past 10 years, motorcycle accidents have become the largest taker of Soldiers' lives. So, please, enjoy yourselves, but be safe."

Before participating in Monday's ride along, all riders had to go through a motorcycle inspection to ensure their safety.

"I've had a motorcycle my whole life," Barclay told the riders. "It's not a question of 'if' you'll (have an accident) it's 'when'. Our goal is to make sure you don't just make it back to Fort Rucker but back home as well."

Most riders didn't return until late in the afternoon but some decided to make the trip home a little earlier.

"It was a good ride but we kind of ran out of things to do after a while," Sgt. Danny Burns, C Company, 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment, said. "But, everybody was on their best behavior and we didn't have any problems driving down or coming back."

Burns has been riding for more than a year and is now a mentor to Staff Sgt. Steven Ervin, who has been riding for about four months.

"Today was the first time I've driven for more than an hour all at once," Ervin said. "It was a lot of fun."

Burns and Ervin have been riding together for four months, since Burns convinced him to give riding a try, according to Ervin. Now, he loves doing it as much as possible.

Both Burns and Ervin hope the rides continue and wouldn't mind seeing them happen more often.

"I'd like to have them quarterly," Burns said. "Maybe not as far as this one went, but I'd go either way."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16