FORT SILL, Okla. (May 17, 2018) -- Fort Sill hosted its 13th annual Freedom's Thunder Motorcycle Safety Rally and Ride May 11 here. Sixty riders, mostly Soldiers, completed the 17.3-mile course, said Kevin Enlow, officer in charge of the event and safety specialist at the Fires Center of Excellence.

The safety briefing portion of the event saw 200-220 participants at Sheridan Theater to begin the event. Enlow said this year's event was different than previous Freedom Thunder events in that motorcycle vendors were on hand, including a Harley vendor staff that did free motorcycle service checks for bikers.

One mentor per 13 riders was on hand to observe and offer help throughout the actual ride course, Enlow explained. Following the event, Enlow said it went well. "We had two skill events -- a five-cone slalom and a counter-clockwise double circle, which allows the mentors to coach and see how well riders lean with their bikes.

"We have skills that have to be evaluated; mentors need time to coach," Enlow said. "They're actually coaching the people approved. Mentors will actually demonstrate how to do those options. Everyone will have a mentor of some sort. We'll do "T-CLOCKs." T-CLOCKS stands for a pre-ride motorcycle safety check of: tires and wheels; controls; lights; oil; chassis; and kickstand.

Enlow stated that this year's ride will count as a command ride. Next year he hopes to make the ride 60 to 70 miles and have multiple stops at different places. The motorcycle command team is also working on the availability of safety vests that all motorcycle riders on post must wear when riding. The Main Exchange sold them, but the vests have been in short supply, said riders at the briefing.

Col. David Stewart, Fort Sill and FCoE new chief of staff, stopped by Sheridan Theater to address the audience.

"The sun is shining. It's a great day to be out," he said. He proceeded to ask the audience members why they like to ride. Some answers included: freedom, tradition in their families and camaraderie.

Stewart also wanted to know how many times riders had participated in this annual event. One member stated for 12 years, another 13 years. One member's grandmother rode in 1925 on her honeymoon.

"Camaraderie, that shared bond, is pretty big in the military," Stewart said. "We've got riders who've been doing this a long time. You have riders that are just starting out. I'll argue that those who've been doing this a long time, you don't know everything, but you can certainly help those new riders. You can also glean some experience by re-experiencing some of those basics by going out and engaging.

"The commanding general (CG) is reviewing this policy. The CG wants everybody to be safe on that ride. What he doesn't want is to make it too hard that people don't want to ride. What he's trying to do is find some middle ground. I think the safety team along with the leadership are trying to work it out, along with timing, trying to make it more user friendly in that regard, while still upholding the standard," he said.

The last time Stewart rode a motorcycle was in 1995, while stationed in South Korea, he visited his best friend in Thailand.

"I remember, while riding motorcycles through the jungle, a few things," Stewart said. "I remember it being a really free and fun experience, but there are a lot of distractions that didn't exist in 1925 for sure. We're faced with a changing world out there. You can't control what those other folks do, but you can control what you do. I think all can learn to share the road. Remember, they (other riders and drivers) may not see you. The last thing I remember with my best friend, it was a bonding experience. We had a blast, just two young guys out riding motorcycles having fun. Have fun, be safe, enjoy."

Enlow closed the motorcycle briefing by citing some local motorcycle accident statistics, of which Fort Sill has few, fortunately.

"We've had four motorcycle accidents so far this year," he said. "Three had injuries; one was a near miss (and) all where the riders lost control. We're lucky in that no one's had fatalities. Since we're enacting policies we've not had fatalities on Fort Sill from a motorcycle accident. It's all the training you're doing to help the rider out; it's working."

Motorcycle riders are required to review Army Regulation 385-10, Appendix K, "The Army Safety Program," which spells out requirements to ride on military installations.

Following the briefing and before riders started their course, Fort Sill Installation Chaplain (Col.) Jimmy Nichols led a prayer.