FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 23, 2013) -- About 50 motorcycle riders gathered at Fort Rucker's Wings Chapel May 18 to participate in an Army Substance Abuse Program mentorship ride.

The goal of the ride was to help fulfill Department of the Army annual training requirements for Soldiers and DA Civilians. Active-duty Soldiers are required to undergo four hours of drug and alcohol abuse prevention training and General Schedule civilian employees have a two-hour requirement annually. Participants in the ride received credit towards the requirement.

"Today is just a fun way for them to train on some old lessons," said Lynn O'Brien, Fort Rucker ASAP prevention coordinator and organizer for the group ride. "Drinking and driving of any kind don't mix."

The ride, which began at Fort Rucker and ended at Westgate Park in Dothan, was originally scheduled for April 19, but inclement weather caused a cancellation. Members of the Alabama State Patrol escorted the riders and provided training during the event. Patriot Guard riders also participated in the event.

"April was Army Substance Abuse (Awareness) Month," said Col. Stanley Smith, commandant of the Warrant Officer Career College, during a pre-ride brief. "We had this ride scheduled for April, but we were rained out. This is still appropriate because May is motorcycle safety month. Motorcycle accidents are down for the Army this year, but here in Alabama, it's starting to warm up and it's becoming motorcycle weather."

Smith also discussed mentorship of junior motorcycle riders and ensuring riders get Motorcycle Safety Foundation training commensurate with their level of experience.

He concluded his remarks by encouraging Soldiers and civilians to help themselves and each other if they are aware of a substance abuse problem.

"Don't wait until the commander tells you that you need help," said Smith. "You're a little bit late then. Go on your own and say you need help."

Howard Swain, the senior ride captain for the Wiregrass area Patriot Guard riders, said he and his fellow riders participated for the camaraderie and fellowship.

"A lot of our riders are retired or served in the military," said Swain. "We've got some (military) dependents that ride with us also. A show of support, that's what we're here for. That's what we do."

Swain also said that substance abuse is not just a one-time concern for good motorcycle riders.

"If someone has been drinking or consuming alcohol, they put us (motorcycle riders) at a greater risk," said Swain. "We don't have airbags on our bikes. If we get hit from the side a little airbag is not going to deploy. We're going to get hurt -- and 99 percent of the time, the driver (of the car) is going to walk away."