By Kevin DowneyOctober 22, 2010
CHIEVRES, Belgium - Motorcyclists from the international military community here mounted up their choppers, cruisers, sport bikes and touring models in group formation Oct. 21 for the cause of safe riding.
Motorcycle Safety Awareness Day, a biannual grassroots event sponsored by Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe and ChiAfA..vres motorcyclists, aims to improve overall riding skills in the international military community.
"The purpose of the day is to bring awareness to motorcycle safety, to get the riders talking to each other and checking over their bikes," said U.S. Navy Chief Paul Rewak, the event's organizer. "We go over winter and fall riding, storage of the motorcycle for winter, appropriate gear and riding conditions here in Europe."
The awareness training is the result of motorcyclists on S.H.A.P.E. and ChiAfA..vres wanting to focus community attention on motorcycle safety after a fatal accident in October 2009 involving a U.S. Soldier, said Rewak, assigned to NATO Communication and Information Systems Services Agency.
"Around this time last year we lost a Soldier to a motorcycle accident on the road from here to S.H.A.P.E.," Rewak said. "My main goal is to try to prevent that from happening again from a lack of knowledge about riding."
One of the key benefits of the forum is the networking that takes place between veteran riders and beginners, or newcomers to the community, said Rudy Magain, USAG Benelux safety director.
"This fosters the mentorship program in the sense that experienced riders will teach some things to new riders, and it's really based on friendships and good relationships among the group," Magain said.
The day began with a group ride from S.H.A.P.E. to the Auto Skills Center on the air base, where bikers networked and performed safety checks on each other's bikes.
Bjoern Mosebach, a master sergeant equivalent from the German army, has been stationed on S.H.A.P.E. for close to a year. He bought his bike three years ago and rides about 10-12 times a year during the summer.
"We checked our motorbikes," Mosebach said. "It's nice that somebody else checks your bike because usually you check your own bike quickly and that's it. Sometimes you make mistakes of course, and you miss something. That's why it's good someone else checks it here. This training is beneficial for me because I plan to ride my bike everyday this summer."
The awareness training also featured practical demonstrations on the air base's motorcycle range, as well as safety lectures in the auditorium of the headquarters building on Caserne Daumerie. Belgian federal police gave detailed instruction on roadway laws and customs, including tips on riding through hazardous conditions taught at the police academy.
"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."
This is the second time the awareness training was held in the community, the first was in March on SHAPE. The training coincides with dangerous times of year for riding motorcycles in Europe, both Rewak and Magain said.
"The fall is especially dangerous because you have leaves coming down, and a lot of debris on the road," Rewak said, before Magain interjected in agreement.
"Exactly," Magain said. "Mud, dead leaves, wet conditions, sugar beets... also slow-moving tractors carrying the sugar beets. This all adds up to dangerous conditions here."
Rewak received an Army Achievement Medal for his effort in organizing this safety forum, a rare occurrence for a naval service member. The award was presented to him by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, during the service chief's visit to Belgium earlier this month.