FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — With warmer weather in the Ozarks comes the sound of revving motorcycles as riders hit the open road. Before heading out for that first ride of the year, however, active-duty service members need to ensure they have met all requirements, including the completion of motorcycle safety courses.
To better assist Fort Leonard Wood’s service members, some course requirements have been updated.
According to John Lackey, who heads up the motorcycle safety program for the Garrison Safety Office, the two advanced courses Fort Leonard Wood used to offer — the Basic Rider Course Two, and the Military Sport Bike Rider Course — have been combined into one, eight-hour Advanced Rider Course.
The two-day Basic Rider Course remains unchanged, and every service member on active duty must take this course before riding a motorcycle, he added. The courses are taught at Training Area 209A, just south of Forney Airfield.
“Everyone has to take the basic course first,” Lackey said. “Within one year after that, they must take the Advanced Rider Course, and then take it again every five years to maintain certification.”
Tami Grider is the instructor for both courses. She said anyone who was certified in either of the two previous advanced courses is considered, “grandfathered in.”
“They are not required to take another course until their current training expires,” she added.
Grider said the basic course includes 14 riding exercises and an evaluation. The students are encouraged to bring their personal protective equipment, or PPE — anyone wishing to ride on post must be wearing a Department of Transportation-approved helmet; gloves; sturdy over-the-ankle footwear; and long-sleeved shirt and pants — the motorcycles are supplied at the course.
“It is very basic,” she said. “We start pushing the motorcycles with our legs, working up to completing figure eights in a certain area, braking in corners — skills like that.”
Students attending the advanced course are asked to bring their own motorcycles, PPE and extra clothes, in case of inclement weather.
“The course simulates more real-world riding scenarios — and we train in the rain,” Grider said.
One of the attendees of the first basic course of the year last week was Staff Sgt. Rolando Anderson, a drill sergeant with Company D, 787th Military Police Battalion. He said although he has years of riding experience, his certifications from his previous installation have expired and he wanted to go back to the beginning before getting on his bike again.
“I figured, what does it hurt to just go back through the basics and refine my technique?” he said. “I love that the course makes you uncomfortable, but it does it in a safe environment.”
Another attendee at the basic course last week was Sgt. Austin Sharp, from the 5th Engineer Battalion’s Forward Support Company. He rode years ago before joining the Army, and, like Anderson, found many important takeaways.
“It’s an awesome class,” he said. “It refreshed some of the stuff I knew, but it also taught me a lot of stuff I didn’t know that’s very beneficial to riding and to be aware of everything around you.”
As a reminder, Lackey said all motorcyclists must carry proof of their current registration and insurance, along with their current, state-issued driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement.
Active-duty service members should note they are also required to have proof of their highest level of motorcycle safety course certification with them while riding, Lackey said, and they are required to follow on-post PPE requirements whether riding on post or off.
“It’s a high-risk activity, per the Army data, and all of this is an investment in protecting our very valuable assets — our people,” he said.
Another responsibility active-duty service members have before they can ride a motorcycle is to check in with their unit’s motorcycle mentor, Lackey said.
“It’s called the post mentor program, and new riders need to get with their unit mentor,” he said. “They have a rider’s package they have to do. That’s part of the process for them to ride.”
Lackey stressed that the on-post motorcycle courses are for active-duty service members only. Retirees, family members and Department of Defense civilians who want to ride on post need to follow all PPE requirements and have a motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s license.
State requirements vary on how to obtain a motorcycle endorsement, Lackey said. In Missouri, would-be motorcyclists can complete a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course, or other state-approved rider’s course, to help with getting an endorsement on their license — schools are available in the local area.
Grider — who has been riding motorcycles for 40 years and instructing here for nearly 13 years — said, ideally, students should come with next-to-no motorcycle knowledge.
“I hope they can ride a bicycle, and I hope they understand the concept of a manual transmission, but other than that, I don’t want them to know anything,” she said. “They always learn something, even experienced riders. Once you think you know it all, that’s when you need to get off your bike — because that’s when you get hurt.”
Service members can find more information about each course and sign up by visiting https://imc.army.mil/airs. Lackey asked that anyone needing to cancel their appointment, to do so at least eight days out to allow for someone else to take the empty slot.