FORT RUCKER, Ala. (March 14, 2014) -- It's that time of year again when motorcycle riders are dusting off their bikes after a long winter and getting back on the roads, but it's safety first for Fort Rucker's riders.

The Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 223rd Aviation Regiment hosted its Motorcycle Mentorship Ride March 7 as a way for Soldiers and leaders to brush up on their riding skills as they get back on the open road, said Sgt. 1st Class Shane Cook, HHC, 1st Bn., 223rd Avn. Regt., battalion motorcycle mentor and safety NCO.

"This ride is designed for people who are starting to bring their bikes out of the shed from winter who might not have ridden in a couple of months," he said. "This helps to get them out on their motorcycles and promote safety, as well as allows them an opportunity to practice the skills that they don't normally get to practice on a regular basis."

The ride left out of the Enterprise Gate and took riders through Elba, Opp, Hartford, Dothan, Ozark, then back to Fort Rucker. But before the ride, each participant took part in a safety course and check-up as a precaution.

This course is designed specifically to teach riders the skills needed to avoid an accident, as well as learn to control their bike. In addition, the riders performed T-CLOCK(Tires and Wheels, Controls, Lights, Oil, Chassis and Kickstand) inspections prior to getting on the course to give Soldiers and mentors a chance to look at their Soldier's bikes, and determine whether or not they need any maintenance.

"The first portion of this is to get riders on their bikes and get them used to riding in small spaces, and also get them used to doing things that could save their lives on the road," said Cook.

During the course, the riders first performed a press, during which the riders pressed to the right or left like a swerve in order to understand the maneuvering of the bike. From there, they came around for the quick stop, during which they quickly downshift from about 25 miles per hour to get the bike stopped within a specific distance. After that, they performed a 90-degree turn into a curve where they executed outside and inside roll-throttle curves.

"We're looking for them to keep their head and eyes up, look through the turn, roll through the throttle and make the bike work for them rather than against them," said Cook. "These are the specific skills that will save a rider's life on the outside -- these are the skills that they need."

The ride itself, although meant to build camaraderie between riders, is also a way to teach inexperienced riders the proper way to ride in a group.

"People who go out and purchase a motorcycle will normally ride by themselves, but eventually they might get bored with that and they'll want to go ride in a group," said Cook. "If you've never ridden in a group it can be very dangerous. The idea is to get the riders familiar in a group in a safe and secure setting with riders that they're comfortable with."

The mentors discussed group riding techniques, which each person has to be aware of in order to participate safely. Cook said one of the key points is that people riding must remain aware at all times of the riders around them, and especially their lead and trail riders.

Master Sgt. Larry Jarrett, HHC, 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group motorcycle mentor, said the ride is a good opportunity for the mentors, who have years of experience riding, to make sure that Fort Rucker Soldiers are learning good motorcycle riding habits.

"I've been riding bikes since I started walking, so I've got a lot of experience that I can pass on to these guys," he said, "and as a senior leader, it's my responsibility to make sure we're taking care of these younger Soldiers."

That responsibility and the results from it can be directly measured in the amounts of lives saved through the program, said CW2 Brian Thomason, B Co., 1st Bn., 223rd Avn. Regt.

"There has been a high fatality rate with motorcycle riders across the military, and in the last few years it's been getting better because of the emphasis on the safety program," he said. "This program helps to instill those safe riding habits while getting away from looking for that adrenaline rush."

"In the past 2 ½ years we've had zero accidents in my battalion because of the mentor program -- I attribute 100 percent of that to the program," said Cook. "That's not a testament to me, but a testament to my Soldiers, as well as the motorcycle mentors throughout the battalion."