FORT DRUM, N.Y. (July 11, 2018) -- Sgt. Aaron Mesick, with 511th Military Police Company, was caught off guard when a child approached him and asked for his autograph. Mesick was helping out at the "Splash into Summer" event July 3 hosted by Mountain Community Homes at the Rhicard Hills Community Center, and though he never expected that kind of request he happily obliged.

"That was definitely a first for me," he said, as he was handing out little sand buckets and shovels to children.

This is his first time assigned to the bike patrol, and Mesick said that he is enjoying the interaction he has daily with the Fort Drum community.

"What's really unique is that people will actually come over to us and talk," he said. "We're more approachable, being on bikes instead of inside patrol cars."

Pfc. Travis Webster said that he loves being on the bike patrol roster and described it as more community policing than crime fighting.

"It's about building rapport in the community," he said. "Sometimes it's as simple as saying hello to someone or asking them about what they are concerned about in the area. I like it a lot because the kids actually know us now by name."

Both Mesick and Webster said that the biggest challenge they face every day is biking up hills that they would take for granted when driving a vehicle.

"Sometime you get to the top of one of those hills and you just need a little break to catch your breath," Mesick said. "But I'd still rather be on a bike than in a patrol car."

Soldiers assigned to the bike patrol must first complete a three-week community policing training course. There, MPs condition themselves to riding inclines and long stretches of road so they can put in a full shift without fatiguing themselves.

"On some days, we would go on 20-mile rides just to get used to that," Mesick said. "We went to Thompson Park in Watertown - a lot of hills. So, a lot of the training was conditioning and getting ready for active biking."

While patrolling the housing areas, members of the bike patrol ask residents if they have any issues in their community, and the one issue that comes up regularly is speeding - specifically when people are leaving for work and then coming back home.

"To target speeding, we've worked with our traffic section to try and put more emphasis on it such as posting the boards that show your speed in the housing areas," said 1st Lt. Eric Rebello, 227th MP Detachment law enforcement patrol operations officer.

Rebello said that members of the bike patrol also routinely meet with community leaders from each housing area to get their perspective on issues.

"One of the things we've learned from doing this is that unattended vehicles are becoming common," Rebello said. "So what we've been doing is asking the patrols to use the warning slips that give owners 72 hours to move their vehicles before they are towed."

Rebello said that bike patrol duty usually rotates between MP companies each year, and 10 Soldiers are selected - usually from the higher end of the physical fitness spectrum.

"Not only do they have to know how to ride a bike, but they have to be able ride 20 miles a day, four days a week," he said. "The training course helps build up their bodies toward that but they should already be pretty physically fit."

Rebello said that community feedback indicates that it is a successful program and Soldiers assigned to the bike patrol are motivated by the work.

"Honestly, it's more of a reward than anything else because it is a break from the normal routine and Soldiers tend to like that," Rebello said.

This is the first time for both Mesick and Webster on bike patrol and, given the option, both MPs said that they would do it again next summer. In the meantime, Mesick said that they will make use of this temporary assignment to strengthen bonds in the community and promote Fort Drum law enforcement.

"We're here to assist, protect and defend," Mesick said. "If you need assistance, don't be afraid to ask us for help - we'll assist you any way that we can."