By Alex McVeighMarch 29, 2010
Motorcycle safety and servicemembers has been synonymous for the past decade, when statistics began showing an uptick in military fatalities on motorcycles. In 2008, more Marines were killed in motorcycle accidents (25) than in Iraq (22) and Afghanistan (21), according to the Pentagon. The Army has also experienced an increase, from 22 deaths in 2004 to 51 in 2008. The military has stressed safety at all levels for years, and now Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall is taking a pro-active effort in helping its Soldiers and Marines ride their motorcycles safely.
The Headquarters and Service Battalion at Henderson Hall started a Motorcycle Safety Club, which is the result of a battalion order issued by Marine Col. Roarke J. Anderson, commanding officer, HQS Battalion, Jan. 27.
Roarke issued the order to "promote enjoyable, responsible and mature riding behaviors among the motorcycle operators and riders assigned to this command." Marine motorcycle riders in the HQS Battalion are required to join the club.
But the club isn't just limited to Marines, Soldiers around JBM-HH are more than welcome to join the club and get information about places to ride, educational opportunities and other upcoming events. "We're trying to get people interested and get the information sharing going," said Marine Maj. Teresa Drag, who works for Headquarters Marine Corps Command, Control, Communications and Computers office, as well as serving as vice president for the club. "The [military] has a lot of programs to encourage safe riding, and we're trying to connect people to those."
Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Dale Miller of Headquarters Marine Corps Aviation serves as the club's president. As someone who has been riding for more than 13 years as well as a former Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor, Miller wanted to make sure the club got off to a strong start. "I was assigned to [Marine Corps Air Station] Yuma, and people would always say that they were too busy to be the president of the club there," Miller said. "I didn't want to be the guy who was always too busy to help."
The club can help experienced riders find groups to ride with, as well as connect servicemembers who are thinking about becoming riders with the resources to evaluate their decision before making a large financial commitment.
With the transitory nature of the armed forces, having a club here will help familiarize recent transfers with the lay of the land in the national capital region.
"Coming from the west coast, where there's not a lot of snow, rain and even the salt and sand on the ground from the winter, is a whole different environment," Miller said.
That's not even to mention the Soldiers and Marines coming in from overseas, where smaller vehicles are a much bigger part of traffic.
"I started riding in Okinawa [Japan], and they don't really have the big highways there. There are a lot more bikes and scooters there too, so drivers were more used to recognizing you," Drag said. "Here sometimes drivers are literally looking right at you, but they don't see you." Soldiers and Marines interested in the club can contact the Henderson Hall Safety Office at (703) 693-2501, or e-mail Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.