MONS, Belgium - Motorcyclists of all experience levels in the SHAPE and ChiAfA..vres community gathered at the Alliance Auditorium on SHAPE March 22 to raise awareness of the importance of safe riding.

SHAPE Headquarters Support Group officials hosted Motorcycle Safety Awareness Day, a new initiative to improve overall riding skills in the international military community.

"The purpose of this training is to bring motorcyclists in the community together to create a safety forum where veteran riders can mentor new riders, discuss experiences and share advice," said John Paugh, ChiAfA..vres Garrison manager. "Riders of all levels benefit from this initiative, and non-riders can learn how to better interact with motorcyclists on the road."

The training is the result of motorcyclists on SHAPE and ChiAfA..vres wanting to focus community attention on motorcycle safety after a fatal accident in October 2009 involving a U.S. Soldier, said U.S. Navy Chief Paul Rewak, event organizer.

"Sadly, last year we lost a member of our community to a motorcycle accident not far from SHAPE," said Rewak, assigned to NATO Communication and Information Systems Services Agency. "As a result, we looked around and asked what riders can do better to avoid accidents and train other riders. This is one step, bringing awareness to riders and drivers alike. Our intent is not to train you how to ride a motorcycle in one day, but to let you know the resources available and share ideas and experiences."

Belgian police gave detailed instruction on roadway laws and customs during the half-day session, including tips on riding through hazardous conditions taught at the police academy. The law enforcement officials also set up a motorcycle simulator in the auditorium's lobby, giving participants real-time guidance how to navigate through the computer system's diverse road scenarios.

"I found the police training very beneficial because they gave specific tactics and techniques for riders to handle any number of conditions that may happen unexpectedly on the road," said Rudy Magain, USAG Benelux safety officer and new motorcyclist. "We learned good driving habits from the experts."

The statistics the officers gave for motorcycle accidents last year on rue d'Ath between SHAPE and ChiAfA..vres - six, with three fatalities - underscored the importance of this training, Magain added.

"We don't want to lose anyone due to improper training," said Andrea Serio, a USAG Benelux physical security specialist and motorcycle enthusiast. "This day is our way of taking a timeout to focus on safety. It provides a forum to network with other riders, where you can meet the right people to ask for guidance."

The training also included a slow-speed circuit in the SHAPE cinema parking lot, where riders demonstrated proper handling techniques and maintenance checks.

An IMCOM-Europe Motorcycle Safety Foundation course is scheduled on ChiAfA..vres Air Base for beginners April 14-15 and April 16 for experienced riders. The courses consist of classroom instruction and range training. Register in advance via the Army IMCOM Registration System (AIRS) available at