'Vanguard' Soldier finds second love in building motorcycles
November 4, 2011
FORT STEWART, Ga. - He pushes the cloth slowly across the surface of the motorcycle's gas tank, bringing out a brilliant luster in the classic patina green and inlayed cream-colored paint hues. Moving to the tail section of the bike, he polishes his lucky number 13, which he painted in black on each side using whimsical stencils.
A flat black motorcycle with an innovative tail fairing that was fabricated from post office boxes and fiberglass sits catercorner in the yard, the sun warming the upholstered seat, while the Soldier performs his restorative magic.
For Staff Sgt. Kirk A. Oglesby, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and an infantryman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Third Infantry Division, working on motorcycles is his self-proclaimed form of therapy.
"I get… the Army all day long--and there's nothing wrong with that--but, by the time I get home I'm ready to decompress and do something that's going to take all that and make it worthwhile," Staff Sgt. Oglesby said. "At the end of the day you've got to have something for yourself."
The company Master Resiliency Trainer and battalion motorcycle mentor currently owns two project motorcycles--a 1974 Honda CB200 and a 1985 Yamaha Virago--which he restores and customizes on his lawn with a limited range of tools, but an unlimited range of creativity at his Pooler, Ga., home.
Staff Sergeant Oglesby said his interest in motorcycles began long before he became passionate about working with tools. Motorcycles were everywhere in Florida, the motorcycle mentor said, and his Family members were avid riders.
In early 1982 when he was 8 years old, Staff Sgt. Oglesby said his father and uncle offered him a deal when he asked them for a motorcycle for Christmas. The operations sergeant said they told him if he received a motorcycle as a Christmas gift it was also going to cost him two birthday gifts. Staff Sergeant Oglesby said he didn't hesitate for a second to accept the offer.
Staff Sergeant Oglesby said he expected a used motorcycle and didn't know his father and two of his uncles had saved up money all that year to purchase him a brand new Suzuki DS80, which he was able to select off the showroom floor.
"That's where my love affair with motorcycles started," Staff Sgt. Oglesby said.
Staff Sergeant Oglesby said his father rode the motorcycle once with him sitting on the back, and then handed the vehicle over. After crashing into a fence during his first go-round, the motorcycle mentor said he donned safer attire and jumped back on--and he's been riding ever since.
The second part of the operations sergeant's talent--working with tools and possessing mechanical knowledge--took root between the ages of 11 and 12, Staff Sgt. Oglesby said.
Coming from a long line of mechanics--his grandfather, father and all of his uncles-- Staff Sgt. Oglesby said it was natural that he learned to work with tools.
Staff Sergeant Oglesby said he believes that when you're growing up, you choose to resemble certain aspects of your Family and you choose not to resemble other features. The operations sergeant said he chose to adopt the Family's mechanical ability and love of motorcycles.
"It's helped to form who I decided to be in life," Staff Sgt. Oglesby said. "I think that because I was predisposed to it--because there was so many mechanics in the Family--it made me a better mechanic [and] made me want it more," Staff Sgt. Oglesby said.
The motorcycle mentor said he entered the mechanical arena by tinkering with bicycles around age 11. By age 13 he said he built and painted a custom canary-yellow chopper bicycle; by age 15, he said he could fix carburetors and changed the brakes on the Family car.
Mixing mechanics with creativity later, Staff Sgt. Oglesby said, grew out of his desire to be unique.
"There's nothing fun about… pulling up at a light and somebody pulls up next to you [with] the exact same thing," Staff Sgt. Oglesby said. "I like to be different."
LeighAnn Oglesby, the motorcycle mentor's wife, affirmed her husbands' interest in being creatively different.
"He's very artistic," LeighAnn said of her husband. "He'll draw everything himself and then he'll go and make it--he is really good at fabricating."
LeighAnn added that her husband enjoys his hobby so much that if he can't tinker because of bad weather or a tight schedule, he mopes around the house.
"Other than his kids and his Family that's his second love," she said.
Staff Sergeant Oglesby said he currently spends 16 to 20 hours a week improving his project motorcycles. He added that after he completes his service to the Army he plans to work on motorcycles full-time at a custom motorcycle shop he plans on opening in Alabama.
"My wife is always saying [she hasn't] seen anything … that I can't fix," Staff Sgt. Oglesby said. "I'd like to say if they could just make tools that could keep up with me I'd be OK."