By Yvette Smith, Courier staff April 4, 2014
As the weather continues to warm up, more and more motorcycle riders will begin hitting the roads. For Fort Campbell Soldiers, the joy of riding comes with a requirement to complete a motorcycle training course.
Military motorcycle training courses on post are certified through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Program, a national, not-for-profit organization. Currently, the Fort Campbell Rider Education Program offers three courses: the Basic Rider Course (BRC), the Experienced Rider Course (BRC2) and the Military Sportbike Rider Course (MSRC).
Soldiers are required to initially take the BRC and within a year, take the BRC2 or the MSRC. The advance courses must be retaken every three years as part of the military motorcycle continuing training program.
The primary goal of the BRC is to provide the basic entry-level skills for a new rider to begin practicing and developing the mental and motor skills important to safe street operation.
"The basic rider course starts by giving students an understanding of how the bike operates," said Bill Gleason, certified course instructor. "We go through all the controls and safety and techniques for operating a motorcycle, and then we go out and implement those techniques in exercises on a moving motorcycle.
"The second part of the course covers street strategies, where you get an understanding of some of the challenges of riding on the street and some of the hazards and things you will run into," said Gleason. "The exercises are geared toward moving faster, turning and stopping quickly -- those type of things."
Gleason said the courses are learner-centered with the rider coaches serving as facilitators.
"We facilitate the learning experience but we can''t make anyone do it," said Gleason. "Riders must be able to perform on their own."
Fort Campbell active-duty Soldiers are required to take the BRC to ride both on post and off. Course-required personal protective equipment includes DOT helmet, sturdy over-the-ankle footwear, long pants, long-sleeved shirt or jacket and full-fingered gloves. The installation's program has loaner helmets, gloves and safety belts available to students.
Staff Sgt. Aaron J. Potter recently took the class after purchasing a motorcycle. In addition to wanting to meet military requirements, Potter also wanted to brush up on his skills.
"I knew that my basic riding skills weren?'t where they needed to be, and I haven't ridden a motorcycle in about 12 years, so I wanted to improve those skills before I actually got back on the road," said Potter, with 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. "It's a great class. It teaches you a lot of the basic skills that a many riders don't even think about. I know I didn't think about them before I came to the class.
"Taking corners, that was one of my biggest concerns," said Potter. "I was nervous about it and then I came here and I?'ve got my confidence up. The class goes by quickly. You start basic riding skills and then you just build on that. It happens fast. Your skill level goes up in just the two days and you learn a lot of skills and gain knowledge to use on the roads."
The two-day BRC is offered twice a week. The two-day classes are from 7:15 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays and the same time Thursdays and Fridays. The BRC2 and MSRC are offered on an alternating basis Wednesday from 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. The on-post courses are given next to the Army Traffic Training Facility, 6074 Screaming Eagle Blvd. Soldiers must arrive no later than 7:15 a.m. on the day of their class. Walk-ins are taken at that time as well.
Soldiers wanting to attend should contact their unit S-3.
Although civilians are not required to complete motorcycle training to ride on post, taking the rider courses can be beneficial. That same training is available off post for a fee to interested civilians or any Soldiers who cannot get into an on-post class. Gleason noted that programs closest to the installation include the MidTenn Motorcycle Education Center Program and Appleton Harley-Davidson's Rider's Edge Program.
Kelley Appleton, owner of the MidTenn Motorcycle Education Center, said her program offers weekday and weekend classes throughout Middle Tennessee including two Clarksville locations (one at Austin Peay State University's campus and the other at Rivers End, across from Beach Haven Winery). The program also offers courses in Columbia, Cookeville, Murfreesboro, Nashville and Smyrna.
"Students who successfully complete our class may take their class completion certificate (license waiver) to any Tennessee DMV and they will waive the written and driving tests for their Class M motorcycle license," said Appleton. "They also receive an MSF Card from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation."
The MidTenn Motorcycle Education Center offers military discounts to Soldiers, Veterans and their Family members and includes the use of the motorcycles, the helmets, and all class materials. The BRC military discounted rate is $199. The BRC2 discounted military rate is $99. For more information, contact (931) 823-7744 or visit https://midtennmotorcycle.com.
Upon successful completion of the BRC, students will be issued a rider skill and written knowledge test waiver, which can be presented to any Tennessee Drivers License station to receive a motorcycle endorsement on their drivers license. Soldiers that take the course on post, however, must retake the written exam.
According to the Tennessee.gov website, "Those applying for a Tennessee Motorcycle License who bring the certificate from an approved Tennessee training site, pass the vision test and pay the required fee will have their license skills and knowledge tests waived."
For Kentucky residents "the [license] applicant must have the motorcycle permit for at least one calendar month before a motorcycle license can be issued," according to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet website.
This year, Fort Campbell will observe Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month May 27-30. This observance is part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's campaign to keep riders safe on our nation's highways.
The motorcycle safety week will review accident statistics and factors involved, demonstrate proper preventive motorcycle maintenance, review personal protective gear requirements and also conduct group rides.
"Last fiscal year we had three motorcycle fatalities," said Lonnie Scott, Fort Campbell transportation safety officer. "This year we have already had three motorcycle fatalities."
"Some Soldiers get motorcycles that are too powerful and way beyond their capabilities to operate," said Scott. "Others feel that they have been riding for so long that they don't need the course. It's the individual's decision making process that creates situations that kill."
"I recommend anyone that rides a motorcycle take the course," said Scott. "Inexperience and bad habits can really get you in a real bit of trouble.