By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterNovember 2, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Although riding season for most motorcyclists begins in spring, riders can be seen on the road throughout the year, and that's why the 110th Aviation Brigade wants to make sure riders on Fort Rucker are staying safe year round.
The unit hosted its motorcycle mentorship Ride Oct. 27 as a means to educate riders on proper riding safety when taking to the streets, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Marvin Pinckney, 1st Battalion, 11th Aviation Regiment command sergeant major.
"The mentorship ride is about rider safety and a brotherhood of riders, so we just want to come together, do a ride … and enjoy the culture," said the command sergeant major. "Today, we'll talk about the route, the formation, the hand and arm signals that we're going to use, and safety on the road -- what to expect with me leading the ride."
During the mentorship ride, the riders rode to Panama City Beach, Florida, in a specific formation consisting of a lead rider and a follower at the back.
"The lead rider controls the entire formation from the first bike to the very last bike (using different gestures)," said Pinckney. "One finger in the air means everyone get in one line behind me. Two fingers in the air means to form a staggered formation."
These signals are vital to keeping the formation intact and keeping the riders safe, he said, adding that it's vital that the formation not be broken up by other motorists.
Riding in a group brings a whole new dynamic to riding, and Joel Vanhoolandt, Department of the Army civilian and ride coordinator, said it is imperative that riders understand that.
"This is just a way to show Soldiers what right looks like and give them a chance to ride in a controlled environment," he said. "A lot of folks only ride with one or two riders, and this is a different formation -- a different side to riding. Hopefully they retain some of (what they learn) when they go ride by themselves."
Col. Chad Chasteen, 110th Avn. Bde. commander, came to send the riders off, and although he is not a rider, he said he has the utmost respect for those who do ride.
"In the 70s when I was growing up, I used to watch a man called Evel Knievel," said the brigade commander. "I watched Evel Knievel jump over 16 cars, 18 cars, 20 cars, try to jump over the fountain at Caesar's Palace -- he was my hero growing up. Ever since I saw Evel Knievel, I've been infatuated with motorcycles.
"I remember one time he went to jump over a shark tank and it didn't work out so well," he said. "His motorcycle failed, it decelerated and he crashed. I'm not a rider but I really do love motorcycles, and I advocate mentorship rides and programs, so you'll always have an advocate in me as the brigade commander."
As a battalion commander, Chasteen said one of the darkest days of his 27-year career came when he lost a Soldier to a motorcycle accident. After that, he told himself that he would do what he could to advocate for motorcycle safety.
"I went out and made it my mission in life to make sure my guys had mentorship rides, had the training and had the resources -- that's what I consider this today," he said. "It should be a lot of fun and I hope you guys have fun, but it's training and that's the way I see it.
"All I'm asking you to do today is have fun, but I'm asking you to do so with discipline and be safe," continued the brigade commander. "Please just set a great example for the other folks. Understand that you are going with my 100-percent trust and I want you to have fun.