By Geneve N. Mankel, Fort McCoy Public AffairsAugust 11, 2011
FORT McCOY, Wis. -- The sound of roaring motorcycles of all makes and models filled the hot and humid air Aug. 2 as the Fort McCoy Patriot Warrior Riders (PWR) departed the Exchange parking lot for a motorcycle ride.
Despite the weather, the PWR, a chapter of the U.S. Army Motorcycle Mentorship Program (MMP), was on a mission. As part of all rides, the PWR promotes and reinforces motorcycle safety and seeks to enhance the image of motorcycle riders as responsible riders, said Command Sgt. Major William T. Bissonette Jr., PWR president.
The PWR is a private organization that works under the auspices of the MMP. According to its constitution, the PWR sets out to “encourage on-going rider education and skills development, and reduce the potential of motorcycle mishaps” and “seeks to enhance the installation and local-community relationship through community-service efforts and events.”
Before all rides, a briefing, much like a military convoy brief, is held. The road captain and safety officer present the route, road conditions, safety hazards, etc., Bissonette said.
“Before group rides, riders conduct safety inspections and checks, and are reminded how to do things the right way,” Bissonette said. “This is how a group ride should be " proper spacing, speed and hand signals, with a focus on safety.”
In addition to the event rides, the PWR meets the third Thursday of each month to discuss mentorship activities and initiatives.
“I want to bring like-minded riders together and help bring a sense of community to Fort McCoy,” Bissonette said.
The rides are a time to provide a PWR group event, promote community relations with local businesses and reinforce safety standards, he said.
Members who participate in group rides must display safe motorcycle operation skills and wear personal-protective equipment. New riders also must be approved by a PWR mentor before the ride, Bissonette said.
Sue Casteel, an employee at the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center and PWR officer, said she began riding with the PWR when the group first formed in 2007 because she didn’t have a lot of motorcycle riding experience and was scared to death.
“Being part of this group just makes sense, especially with the motorcycle accident rate being as high as it is,” she said.
New riders " those with less than 12 months of on-the-road experience " are paired up with a mentor, who will work with them on motorcycle safety and train them on the capabilities of their bike, Bissonette said.
“Young and inexperienced riders can learn from their mentor’s experiences. It’s better to learn from the experiences of others, than in an accident,” he said.
Sgt. Jeff Simon with the 1st, 338th, 181st Infantry Brigade, is a new PWR member. He joined the group after hearing about it through the Army grapevine.
As an inexperienced rider Simon said he wanted to get more road time.
“My mentor and I go riding about once a week. He’s been riding for a long time and has a lot of experience.”
Bissonette has 32 years of motorcycle-riding experience. He said most accidents are avoidable. “I don’t believe in accidents, only ‘negligents.’ I’m stunned riders don’t understand the risks.”
“There have been 36 deaths Armywide in FY (fiscal year) 2011,” he said. “That’s a third higher than FY 2010. We’re on pace to have the highest number of motorcycle deaths in the past decade.”
“Young riders don’t understand what they can and can’t do and what they should and shouldn’t do. Mentors can help riders understand the capabilities of their motorcycle, themselves and roadways and how to focus on what other drivers on the roadway are doing,” Bissonette said.
Membership in the program is open to anyone in the Fort McCoy community interested in safe motorcycle operations. Contractors and Family members are welcome. There is no membership fee.
“Motorcycles are inherently dangerous. Bikes are extremely powerful. If you don’t have safe habits instilled in you, you will become a statistic. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” Bissonette said.
The next meeting is Thursday, Aug. 18. The PWR will meet at 5:30 p.m. at McCoy’s, building 1571, and ride to the Ground Round in Tomah, where dinner and the meeting will be held at 6 p.m.
For more information about the PWR contact Bissonette at 608-388-3605 or Vice President Lt. Col. Stuart Graham at 608-388-0663.