By Art Powell, Directorate of Communication and Public Affairs, U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety CenterMay 19, 2014
Before the director of Army Safety rides his motorcycle, he performs a safety inspection. It's a habit.
"As commander of the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, and as a rider, I see how motorcycle safety is an important part of taking care of our Soldiers," said Brig. Gen. Timothy J. Edens, director of Army Safety and commanding general, USACR/Safety Center, Fort Rucker, Alabama.
Before a recent group ride around Fort Rucker during National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, Edens and 20 other riders rallied to discuss the ride, inspect their machines and address safety issues. They were motorcyclists about to take to the road, rank didn't matter.
Edens, who has been riding only since 2012, paired up with his aide-de-camp, Capt. Bill Heidt, a rider since 2006.
"Age, rank or professional status do not necessarily have anything to do with safe riding," said Edens. "I waited more than 20 years to get my Harley, and of all the riders out here today, I'm likely the least experienced. I stand to learn something today, and it's a good opportunity for Capt. Heidt to give me a little mentoring since he's been riding longer than me."
The focus on safety during Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month couldn't come at a more critical time for the Army since the number of Soldiers killed in motorcycle accidents this year is up significantly from last year. Data from the USACR/Safety Center show the majority of deaths this year involve Army leaders above the rank of E-5. As of the publish date of this article, 15 of the 19 reported Army motorcycle fatalities involved Soldiers E-5 and above, to include an active duty colonel.
"The beauty of these bike rallies is that every rider can take away something to make them a better rider, and ultimately, a safer rider," said Heidt. "I shared some of my experiences and thoughts about riding with my boss, and I really think he appreciated me doing so."
The greatest threat to Army motorcycle riders is indiscipline such as speeding, alcohol use, lack of training and failure to adequately use personal protective equipment, according to statistics from the USACR/Safety Center.
"Soldiers receive motorcycle safety training based on their riding skills level and it's critical that leaders hold their Soldiers, and themselves, accountable to the standards no matter how much experience they have," Edens explained. "They need to use what they learn from the required safety training the Army makes available."
Because the Army is spread out around the world and it's always riding season somewhere, it means there is never a time when Army leaders don't need to be concerned with motorcycle safety.
"The Army's safety program covers many areas, and all of them require a 24/7 commitment," Edens said. "In motorcycle safety, the highway is a great equalizer where rank isn't the issue and skills, safe habits and experience lead the way."
To assist riders and Army safety professionals, several tools, including an updated Motorcycle Mentorship Program guidebook, are available at https://safety.army.mil.