FORT DRUM, N.Y. (April 29, 2021) -- Before a Soldier can ride a motorcycle on or off post, he or she must first complete the initial Army Safety Training Program course and receive a Motorcycle Safety Foundation card.
That was the goal for a small group of 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers when they gathered at the motorcycle range April 27 for the hands-on, on-the-road portion of the Basic Rider Course (BRC).
“In this course, they learn the basic fundamentals of operating a motorcycle, which will allow them to develop a safety strategy for riding,” said Kathy Matt, a motorcycle instructor based out of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Hours of turns, braking, shifting and stopping help to familiarize Soldiers with safe riding habits, and instructors make on-the-spot corrections and provide feedback after every exercise.
“Negotiating curves is one the most important lessons, because that’s where most motorcycle mishaps occur,” Matt said.
Between classroom and road instruction, Soldiers learn the basic operation of the motorcycle, pre-riding preparations, and strategies for most common riding situations. Other topics include risk management, basics for emergencies, and riding impairments that affect safety.
Matt pointed out that all but one Soldier had never ridden a motorcycle until taking this course, but she could see them develop confidence and self-awareness on the bike.
After completing BRC, Soldiers have a year to complete the follow-on course – BRC II – and then refresher training every three years.
Meanwhile, Soldiers gather annually for activities in support of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month in May.
The Fort Drum Motorcycle Safety Day is scheduled May 21, starting with a morning briefing at the motorcycle range across from Clark Hall. From there, Soldiers will break off into unit activities that vary from inspections, mentorship rides and motorcycle rodeos.
Staff Sgt. Jose Antonio Valverde serves as the motorcycle mentor for 2nd Brigade Combat Team. In support of Motorcycle Safety Day, he has coordinated with local community organizations to provide a motorcycle mentorship ride through Alexandria Bay, Clayton, Cape Vincent and Sackets Harbor for Soldiers in his unit. At each stop, Soldiers will conduct a safety class.
“The plan is that all senior and experienced riders will give safety tips and discuss safety topics at each of the four location,” he said.
As a motorcycle mentor, Valverde said it is his responsibility to ensure that each rider in his unit has a safe, operational bike, knows how to do preventative maintenance and checks on it, and has all the required personal protective equipment.
“Having that mentor at each command level allows the rider to have someone to talk to about styles of riding, safety, and any issues that they might have,” he said. “The Soldiers also need to do their part to assist with safe riding and do their best to prevent an accident.”
Valverde said that he knew he wanted to ride motorcycles after completing the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course at Fort Gordon, Georgia. He purchased his first motorcycle in 2016 after returning from a tour in Korea, and since then, he has been riding every spring and summer.
“In my experience with riding, it’s about anticipating bad drivers and having a plan to avoid accidents,” he said. “I tend to avoid night riding because of low visibility and all the hotheads who come out at night. I also tend to avoid rush hour traffic.”
Valverde said that he has heard there are two types of motorcyclists – those who have dropped their bikes and those who will drop their bike.
“This is a true statement,” he said. “I have been fortunate that my bike drop was during my first year of riding, and it was at a traffic light. There was loose gravel and debris at the light, and my foot slipped and I dropped my bike. It was a little nerve-wracking, because the light changed quickly and I had a tough time getting my bike back up at that moment.”
Jim Farney, from the Fort Drum Garrison Safety Office, said that Motorcycle Safety Day gives Soldiers an opportunity to share those life lessons with each other, while they assess their skills and reinforce their responsibilities as motorcycle operators.
“For the riders, the primary tool to enhance rider safety is for each individual to make an honest self-appraisal of their knowledge, skills, abilities, and risk-taking propensity,” he said. “And for community members on the road, the message we want to communicate is, ‘remember to look twice, save a life.’”
To learn more about Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and resources available for safe riding, visit https://safety.army.mil/OFF-DUTY/PMV-2-Motorcycles.
Fort Drum Soldiers can register for motorcycle safety training courses at https://imc.army.mil/airs/Home.aspx. For more information, call (315) 772-0310.