By Shandi Dix, Fort Riley Public AffairsApril 20, 2010
FORT RILEY, Kan. - Harleys, Hondas and Suzukis lined the sidewalk in front of the 287th Military Police Company, 97th Military Police Battalion building April 9.
It didn't matter how long each rider had been riding or what they rode. They were all part of the Motorcycle Mentorship Program.
With the roar of engines the program kicked off with a short ride around Fort Riley to Moon Lake, where Chap. (Maj.) Daniel Jones blessed the bikes.
"It all kicks off us establishing not only the Motorcycle Mentorship Program, but the first ride of the year with all of our new riders," said Sgt. 1st Class Michael VanHise, operations sergeant, 287th MP Co., 97th MP Bn. "It's built on camaraderie and education, and it kind of gets everybody interested in the safety of riding a bike, because the summer's coming and you've got a bunch of inexperienced riders that the mentorship is designed just for that."
The Motorcycle Mentorship Program is not a military program, it's a safety and education program for the experienced, along with inexperienced motorcycle riders on Fort Riley.
"The experienced riders give mentorship to the inexperienced riders," VanHise said. "It's kind of senior leaders looking after junior Soldiers, but you know if you're a captain and I'm a sergeant and I've been riding for 20 years and you just got a bike, I'm going to be your mentor; so it's not based on rank, it's based on experience."
The mentorship program helps new riders of all ages learn important skills on their motorcycles.
"Got a lot of young Soldiers in this unit; I'm probably the older newest rider and rank doesn't matter," said Sgt. Mohammed Ahrar, maintenance, 287th MP Co., 97th MP Bn. "I've learned from specialists and (private first classes) about getting tips on how to ride, how to take turns, how to get acclimated to your bike, getting tips how to work on your motorcycle."
"With the mentorship program it's Soldiers helping Soldiers," said Sgt. Gabriel Rookus, team leader, 287th MP Co., 97th MP Bn.
Prior to the ride to Moon Lake, inspections were done on the bikes and equipment - helmets, gloves and safety gear. A short safety talk was given on how to ride in a large group.
Once the riders reached Moon Lake, Jones conducted the blessing of the bikes. He also blessed the Gremlin Bells which Company Commander Capt. Craig Giancaterino gave each rider.
The bells are supposed to protect the riders from the hazards of the road, and it's a tradition for a close friend to place the bell on your bike, VanHise said.
With VanHise currently going through duty station changes to Fort Drum, N.Y., Rookus is going to be taking over the program.
Rookus is one of the more experienced riders among the group.
"I've always liked motorcycles since I was 16 or 17," he said.
Just receiving his motorcycle license two weeks ago, Ahrar, is one of the newest and most inexperienced riders among the program. He purchased his bike, a 2001 Suzuki GSX-R 750, while in Iraq November 2008, and it was delivered in January.
"So, I've been itching since January to get on my horse," he said.
Since returning from the recent deployment, Ahrar has been looking for new ways to have a good time and relax.
"Do something other than go out and party, I'd rather ride; it's a better way to spend time and be responsible and be a positive role model," he said. "Combat stress - it's a great way to relieve stress, just to get away from the daily grind."
The program also is open to associate members - the backseat riders or spouses. They serve as the behind the scenes people conducting fundraisers, taking photos and setting up for events.