CAMP TAJI, Iraq - More than 200 Soldiers turned out for a day of unwinding and talking about hogs, squids and the importance of keeping the dirty side down.

For the non-rider, that translates to: motorcycles, reckless riders and keeping the bike upright while riding.

The Soldiers, from various units on Camp Taji, attended the first motorcycle rally hosted by the newly chartered Freedom Warriors Motorcycle Club Oct. 27. The event was hosted by the Freedom Warriors and 615th Aviation Support "Cold Steel" Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.

A key reason for the rally was to introduce new riders to motorcycle safety.

The Army has placed increased emphasis on motorcycle safety in recent years and to highlight that the organizers showed a two-hour, looping safety video.

"We wanted them to realize the measures we have to take when riding," said Freedom Warriors club vice president, Spc. Tyrone Potter, Company B, 615th ASB, a native of Beverly, Ohio. "You have to have all of your protective equipment and use your head."

Using your head means knowing how to ride safely in the first place.

"Rider skill is the number one factor in accidents," said Kelso, Wash., native Staff Sgt. James Abel, from Company C, 615th ASB, who is president of the club. "If you don't have the necessary skills to ride, you're going to get into trouble. When the Army took a look at the accidents, they found that excessive speed was the main factor - and that people who were doing that didn't wear the proper protective gear."

While motorcycle safety was a cornerstone of the rally, the day was also about letting loose and having a little fun. The event included volleyball and horseshoe tournaments, free t-shirt and mini-motorcycle giveaways, a band and disc jockey and a showing of the film Biker Boyz. The prizes were provided by club's sponsors located near Fort Hood, Texas.

There were no motorcycles at the event, but the Soldiers seemed to enjoy themselves nonetheless.

"We had quite a few people who attended say it was an excellent time, that they had fun," Able said.

The event was open to anyone based at Taji to let them know about the Freedom Warriors club, which will be open to anyone based at Fort Hood, Abel said.

The club's seasoned riders will share their experience with new riders when the Soldiers return to Fort Hood.

"If people want to learn how to ride, we will assign a mentor to them," Abel said. "The mentor will drive on the road with them and give out pointers. Afterward they will tell them the kinds of things they should have noticed on the trip that were potential hazards."

Those hazards could include, in motorcycle lingo:
Rainbows - the color pattern that shimmers in a patch of oil on the street
Urban tumbleweed - a plastic grocery bag that flies into the rider's face
Yard shark - Dogs that come out of nowhere and try to bite motorcycle tires

When the club members return to Fort Hood, the Freedom Warriors club will host at least two group rides during the duty day each month, an incentive from Command Sgt. Maj. Glen Vela, the 615th ASB top enlisted Soldier, to encourage riders to work together to focus on motorcycle safety.

Fort Hood-based Soldiers interested in joining the Freedom Warriors Motorcycle Club can email Abel, the club's president, at: