FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas --- More than 50 Brooke Army Medical Center motorcycle riders learned to ride safer June 6 during the Motorcycle Safety Day course hosted by the BAMC Motorcycle Mentorship Program at Evans Theater here.

The purpose of the quarterly course for Soldiers, civilians, contractors and Warriors in Transition is to identify experienced and inexperienced riders, assess their riding skills and provide support.

According to Capt. Tonya Maddox, officer-in-charge of the event, from fiscal year 2008 to date, the Army has lost 28 Soldiers in motorcycle accidents compared to fiscal 2007 when the Army lost 14.

"The increase is 100 percent," she said.

Maddox said the only requirement for the course is an interest in motorcycles.

Motorcycle enthusiast Leonard Cooper, a senior financial manager for the Warrior Transition Battalion, has more than an interest in motorcycles. He has been riding cycles since age 5.

"I started out with motorbikes," said Cooper, who has since moved up to a Vulcan 900 Classic to cruise and enjoy the ride. "This is a refresher course for me. I've taken safety courses at Fort Hood, Texas, and Ansbach, Germany."

This is his first BAMC safety course.

Maddox said the safety day helps leaders recognize riders who are considered high-risk personnel. "It allows the leaders to show support of the motorcycle riders. If the mission allows all motorcycle riders are encouraged to attend, at least the classroom portion. The ride is optional," she said.

As riders are identified, their names are added to the BAMC motorcycle riders e-mail list, and weekly safety messages are sent out regarding rides and safety events in the community.

Safety day training includes learning Motorcycle Mentorship Program requirements, tire safety, line of duty, Army Preliminary Loss Reports (the loss of Soldiers on motorcycles), formation riding, and route and safety briefings. The day ends with an optional ride for experienced riders.

"The Soldiers hold each other accountable for doing the right thing, and if they don't, they let them know," she said. "We teach riding tips and safety. We review basics and advanced riding techniques; everyone learns something."

Sgt. 1st Class Thurman Reynolds, who rides a Harley Davidson VRod, echoes Maddox's remarks.

"There's an emphasis on safety. The course builds camaraderie between the riders," said Reynolds, who has ridden motorcycles for 12 years.

Participation in the Motorcycle Mentorship Program is voluntary, said Maddox, who along with NCO-in-charge Sgt. 1st Class Denny Archibek, teaches MMP with the support of mentors and representatives from BAMC companies and the Warrior Transition Battalion.

Maddox and Smith together have 50 years of combined riding experience.

To be considered a Motorcycle Mentorship Program graduate, riders must complete the Army-approved Motorcycle Safety Foundation class and participate in an orientation ride with a rider mentor. After 1,000 miles and a group ride, the rider may ride alone or with a mentor. However, they cannot have any tickets or be involved in any incidents in order to be eligible for graduation from the program.

Additionally, safety vests were presented to MMP graduates by Troop Command Commander Col. David Baker during the classroom portion of the course.