FORT BRAGG, N.C. -The 18th Field Artillery Brigade ensures it riders are properly trained and equipped for riding on and off post through its motorcycle mentor program. The motorcycle check ride is one of the program's methods to evaluate riders and teach them the importance of safety and defensive riding techniques. As motorcycles roared out of Pope Gate, brigade motorcycle riders began a motorcycle check ride to Raleigh on July 14."We wanted to conduct a motorcycle check ride that supports the brigade commander's motorcycle mentor program," said Capt. Jonathan Fanelli, the brigade's motorcycle safety officer. "To do this, we developed a ride that would allow mentors the opportunity to monitor and evaluate their riders and give them a venue to address any areas they may need to improve on. Mentors don't often get the opportunity to ride with the motorcyclists under them and this ride affords them that opportunity."Fanelli led the motorcyclists to Raleigh and implemented measures to ensure group safety on the highways and roads to their destination. "For riders this isn't just a fun way to spend a work day," continued Fanelli. "It's an opportunity for riders to get outside of their comfort zone in an environment where mentors can provide feedback to improve each rider's skills. The additional resources that are provided during the ride can also help put novice riders at ease."Riders encountered different types of roads during the trip to Raleigh. They also took breaks for maintenance and safety checks. "We wanted to give everyone an enjoyable ride that provided something for everyone in varied riding environments," said Fanelli. "We used a 125 mile round trip route that included twisty one lane back roads, an interstate highway and everything in between. We had a trail vehicle with water and a medic, allowed for frequent fuel and comforts stops, and coordinated for a trailer to prevent a motorcycle with mechanical problems from stranding a rider on the route."When they arrived to Raleigh, the riders sat down for lunch to discuss the experiences of their journey and the observations they had seen so far."We were able to use some of the situations we ran into during the ride as case studies during the lunch stop that helped to get riders thinking about what to do in a given circumstance and to help them better understand the fundamentals of S.E.E., Search Evaluate Execute, to ensure that they are prepared to react appropriately to adverse situations they may encounter during a ride," said Fanelli.At lunch Staff Sgt. Peter Hopson of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 18th FA Brigade, emphasized the importance of using helmet and eye protection while riding. Hopson's helmet split in half during his motorcycle accident. According to Hopson, if he had not used eye protection, he would have been blinded from the injuries.Throughout the check ride, Spc. Raymond Claudio, of HHB, 18th FA Brigade, held the role of sweeper for the group, picking up the rear and keeping an eye out for the riders in front of him and watching for possible road hazards."The defensive riding emphasis broadened my horizon a bit," said Claudio. "Whether the light is red or green, you never know what might be coming across the way, and when you are with other riders, it's something you look for a little more. In a group, I'm making sure they're ok, and not just myself.""You have to be ready for the unexpected," said Claudio. "You hope nothing will happen to you, but when you're prepared for a situation, and something does happen, it might actually save your life."