WSMR Motorcycle Training
1st Sgt. George Armstrong executes a safe riding technique during the first Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Riders Course to be given at White Sands Missile Range March 20. The safety course is a requirement for all motorcycle riders to drive on a... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M., April 23, 2009 - After years of preparation, White Sands Missile Range finally has its own basic motorcycle safety course saving Soldiers from having to travel hundreds of miles to get the training required by the Department of Defense to drive their motorcycles on military installations.

The first Basic Rider Course offered at WSMR's new Motorcycle Safety Foundation certified safety range was held March 20, conducted by a company contracted by the Army to provide motorcycle safety training at all installations.

"I and Darrell Durr have been working on getting WSMR the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider Course since 2006," said Sammie Hubbard, Safety Technician for the WSMR Safety Office. "Our first request was denied by Installation Management Command because we did not have enough active duty Soldiers assigned to the post. But we started the process again last year and, with the addition of the 2nd Engineer Battalion, it was approved," he said.

The inaugural Basic Riders Course was filled to capacity with 25 WSMR riders attending, most new motorcycle riders who where learning safe riding techniques for the first time. Still a few were experienced riders who took the course to refresh their skills after taking a long break from riding. All of the students but one were Soldiers from the 2nd Engineer Battalion. One student was a civilian WSMR employee because the Army safety requirement allies to military and civilian alike.

One of the students using the course as a refresher after a break from riding was 1st Sgt. George Armstrong, Forward Support Company, 2nd Engineer Battalion. He said the course was worth all the effort expended in setting it up. "The course was outstanding. I've been a rider for 15 years but it has been a long time since I have been on a bike," Armstrong said. "It brought back a lot of fundamental riding skills that I thought I had lost," he said. The course has enabled him to better handle his motorcycle and react safely to road hazards. He recommended other experienced riders repeat the course to maintain their riding skill.

According to Hubbard, before WSMR started its own basic riders course, a Soldier would have to travel excessively to take the required course at Fort Bliss where its training range is located east of El Paso about 70 miles away from White Sands. "All together, a Soldier would have to travel about 420 miles back and forth from WSMR in order to do the same training that we can now do here with practically no travel time," Hubbard said. In order for a student to make it to the Fort Bliss course before the 7 a.m. start time, a Soldier would have to get up at 4 a.m. or risk being dismissed for the day for being late, Hubbard said.

One of the other challenges to having the training course at WSMR was finding an acceptable paved lot that could be painted with the required course paths and used on a regular basis. When Hubbard's request for $150,000 to build a range from scratch was turned down, he found an organization that was willing to share one of its assigned parking lots. "We could not have met the installation's goal of establishing the Basic Riders Course here had it not been for the cooperation of the 2nd Engineer Battalion," Hubbard said. "They let us use one of their motor pool parking areas and have removed all the vehicles from it every time we've needed the course," he said.

For a rider's safety range to be certified by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, a requirement for the training to be approved by the Department of the Army, the area must meet strict MSF guidelines. Hubbard said the designated parking lot was first photographed from eight different angles and the images sent to the MSF along with diagrams and measurements for their approval. Once the MSF gave White Sands the approval, WSMR hired a contractor to come in from San Antonio, Texas to paint the range paths on the asphalt surface of the designated parking lot using special paint. Hubbard said the Missile Range motorcycle safety range is now certified and registered with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation for use in teaching the Basic Riders Course, Military Sport Bike Riders Course and the Experienced Riders Course. All of the instruction is provided by the principle Army contractor for motorcycle safety instruction, Cape Fox Professional Services.

The three-day basic course consists of some classroom theory and then hours of practical exercises executed on the safety range with students riding motorcycles provided by the contractor. Because a first-time rider may not yet own a motorcycle, or may already own a motorcycle that requires more advanced skills to operate because of its size, weight or horsepower rating, the Basic Riders Course is taught on small, light motorcycles provided by the instructing contractor. According to Hubbard, a special effort was made by the Army to arrange for the motorcycles but, because of the delay, the first course to be taught on the WSMR safety range was in February, with the first Experienced Riders Course using the students' own motorcycles.

For a schedule of motorcycle safety courses offered at White Sands Missile Range, contact the Installation Safety Office.