Freedom's Thunder draws 400 riders
May 17, 2012
By Jeff Crawley
FORT SILL, Okla.-- A relatively new rider, Spc. Tom Scheibler has been a motorcyclist for two years. To legally ride his 1987 Honda Super Magna, the Army required him to complete the Basic Rider, and Experienced Rider courses.
"It was good training, it was really informative," said Scheibler, who is assigned to Company B, 100th Brigade Support Battalion. "The courses definitely helped me become a better rider."
Scheibler was one of almost 400 motorcyclists who rode in Fort Sill's Seventh Annual Freedom's Thunder motorcycle safety rally and ride May 10 at the Sheridan Theater. The rally and its safety briefing was a prelude to the Army's 101 Critical Days of Summer, which begins Memorial Day weekend.
Freedom's Thunder promoted motorcycle safety for service members letting them know what courses they are required to complete and what personal protective equipment they are required to wear, said Kenneth Broughton, installation safety office manager. The rally, which was free and open to the public, also let the Lawton-Fort Sill community know there are a lot of motorcyclists in the area.
At a half-hour safety briefing before the ride, Broughton and Col. Brian Dunn, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill chief of staff, welcomed the riders and wished them a safe, fun ride.
Dunn asked the experienced riders to assist less experienced riders and ensure they rode safely.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brent Hayes, 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade motorcycle mentor, covered the 65-mile route, noting construction sites, sharp turns and known road hazards.
Hayes' mantra was: Ride within your abilities, watch your speed and your following distance.
In his prayer, Chaplain (Capt.) Eric Bey, 1st Battalion, 31st ADA, thanked God for a beautiful riding day and for help keeping the "rubber side down."
About 290 motorcyclists preregistered online and about another 100 completed on site registration at the staging point at the Impact Zone, said Maria Hayes, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation administrative managment specialist.
FMWR helped support the rally with registration, giveaways and with the sponsorship, she said.
Patrick Reynolds, Journey Productions disc jockey, kept the riders revved up with his driving-beat tunes. Vendors included Morris Motorsports, Lawton Motorsports, Chaps My A--, Fast Break Sportswear, BAE, USA Discounters, Fort Sill Credit Union and USAA insurance.
Gary Thompson, USAA military affairs field representative, talked to members and potential members about the company's services and financial products.
"We're getting a lot of interest in motorcycle insurance," he said.
Staff Sgt. James Janda, A Battery, 1st Battalion, 78th Field Artillery, was one of the rally's road captains. He monitored the 30 riders within his group, which consisted of riders of varying experience and different types of bikes.
"If there is a less experienced rider, I'll adjust him in the formation as I see necessary bringing him closer to me," Janda said
"It's good to see all the bikes and different people from the units from Fort Sill get together along with the civilians to enjoy the love of motorcycling," said Janda, who rode in last year's Freedom Thunder ride.
At about 10 a.m., Staff Sgt. Brandon Stovall, Fort Sill Field Artillery Half Section, fired an 1897 75mm French howitzer to start the ride. Riders headed out Apache Gate on a 65-mile ride that took them through Elgin and Sterling.
After the rally, riders returned to the Impact Zone for lunch and raffle drawings for motorcycle apparel, safety gear and gift certificates.
The Army Safety Program requires military personnel to complete progressive Motorcycle Safety Foundation courses, Broughton said. The first course is the Basic Riders Course, which requires classroom and riding instruction. After the BRC and within 12 months, riders must complete either the Experienced Rider Course or Military Sport Bide Rider Course, depending on the type of bike they ride. All motorcyclists returning from a deployment of six months or longer, must complete Motorcycle Refresher Training before they can operate their bikes.
Every three years, military riders are required to complete Sustainment Training, which is repeating the ERC or MSRC, as appropriate, according to CG Policy Memo 12-02.
Free motorcycle training for service members is scheduled through the Army Installation Managment Command Registration System at https://apps.imcom.army.mil/airs/.
Military riders and their passengers are required to wear personnel protective equipment, or PPE, Broughton said. Soldiers are bound by these guidlines even when riding off post. These requirements also apply to civilians and family members when they are riding on Fort Sill.
PPE includes a secure, DOT-approved helmet; full-fingered gloves; long-sleeved shirt or jacket and long trousers; sturdy over-the-ankle-footwear; eye protection; and a brightly colored upper garment during the day and a reflective upper garment at night.
Motorcycle mentorship program
Each unit is required to have a motorcycle mentor, Broughton said, which is an appointed position for a mature, experienced rider. The mentor ensures unit riders have the proper training, and he or she conducts quarterly safety meetings. At the meetings, the mentor inspects motorcyles using the T-CLOCs checklist, looking at Tires, Controls, Lights, Oil (fluid levels) and Chassis. Riders are also inspected for personnel protective equipment.
"They also take out new motorcyclists on rides and give them pointers," he said.