Military information support group at Fort Bragg takes the lead in motorcycle safety
August 20, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - It's no secret that the roads surrounding Fayetteville are full of hazards to even the most experienced motorcycle rider. But what may not be as well known is the training available to Soldiers to enhance their skills and learn to minimize the risk that they assume every time they ride.
In the last 12 months the 4th Military Information Support Group motorcycle mentorship program has held six events to reach out and train the riders in the group.
The program is now providing required training at unit level thanks to the initiative of one of its own, Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Bopp.
Bopp, the 4th MISG billeting non-commissioned officer, took the initiative to become a certified Motorcycle Safety Foundation® rider coach in December 2009.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation® is the internationally recognized developer of the comprehensive, research-based, Rider Education and Training System. Army Regulation 385-10 requires motorcycle riders to complete basic motorcycle instruction prior to operating a motorcycle. The foundation's Basic Riders Course satisfies this requirement. Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland's Fiscal Year 2010 Safety Guidance requires riders to complete the Experienced Riders Course six months after BRC, once every three years for sustainment and post-deployment as refresher training.
Bopp first hopped on a motorcycle in 1986 and twenty-four years later he still loves to ride when not overseeing the 4th group barracks. He is one of six certified M.S.F.® rider coaches.
In July, Bopp teamed with Master Sgt. William Strasburg, a fellow rider coach from USASOC, to bring the ERC to Gabriel Training Area at Fort Bragg. This was the first time that the course had been conducted by Soldiers for Soldiers in the 4th MISG.
Ten Soldiers, with varied riding backgrounds as well as their own motorcycles, signed up for the one-day course designed for experienced riders who desire to learn and practice more in-depth riding techniques.
"We all ride at the limits of our ability," said Bopp. When the rider exceeds their limits that's when the rider finds out first-hand that when you are on a bike, your body is the airbag. Since motorcycles do not have airbags, the rider receives the full momentum in an accident.
Bopp also cautions that when buying a bike, the overall fit is far more important than how it looks to the other drivers on the road.
"The prettier the bike is, the harder it is to ride," Bopp commented with a laugh during the limited space maneuver exercise at the July ERC. During certain drills several riders had difficulty turning. He said the difficulty was due to the rider's lack of familiarity with their motorcycle. Even a rider with decades of experience has to relearn how their bike handles after a slight modification is made.
"(Bopp) says that I don't want to drop it," said long time rider and career Soldier Master Sgt. James Best. He grinned and then admitted with a smile, "He's right!"
Although Best has been riding for years, his current bike is new to him and he doesn't want any scratches or dents as he learns how to maneuver it.
According to Mark Martin, 4th MISG Safety Manager, courses like the ERC are vital to minimizing unnecessary accidents and deaths. The Group experienced a 50 percent reduction in recordable motorcycle accidents in Fiscal Year 2010 compared to the same time period last year. Martin says the reason for this reduction is an increased emphasis on motorcycle mentorship, training, and awareness of the importance of using personal protective equipment.
Over the next several months 4th MISG rider coaches will conduct six courses for 4th MISG riders to include the Basic Rider Course. The courses will enable current and aspiring riders to meet civilian and military training requirements, but the riders will walk away with more than just completing another requirement. They will have the knowledge as well as skills necessary to prevent a potential accident.