FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness month, which kicks off Fort Leonard Wood's Motorcycle Mentorship Program summer rides.

"The Motorcycle Safety and Mentorship Program establishes unit level motorcycle riding groups where less experienced riders and seasoned riders can create a supportive environment of responsible motorcycle riding and enjoyment," said Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Gallagher, 1st Engineer Brigade, S3 noncommissioned officer-in-charge and motorcycle coordinator.

Gallagher has been riding since he was a teenager, and even though he is an experienced rider he feels like the program has been beneficial to him.

"I have picked up my share of bad habits along the way. I have taken all the Fort Leonard Wood MSMP and Motorcycle Safety Foundation courses, ranging from a refresher course, all terrain vehicle through the sportbike riders' course. I've learned something new each time and each course has enhanced my riding ability and safety on and off road," Gallagher said. "It helps everyone reduce risk. Motorcycle safety is for everyone on the road today. It does not matter if you ride or drive, the dangers are out there. If we are able to just get through to one Soldier, the program is a success."

As much as the program is about building comradeship, it's about saving troops' lives, which is all too close to Gallagher's heart.

"I read far too many Preliminary Loss Reports with young service members who have returned from deployment with their extra pay, going out and buying the biggest, fastest bike they can. They in turn are trying to fulfill a childhood fantasy and end up biting off more than expected," Gallagher said. "I have lost four friends to motorcycle accidents, two of which were due to unsafe riding styles, the others (due to) road rage and a drunk driver. All but the latter could have been avoided with a little training , information and positive influence."

Regardless of age or experience, Gallagher has confidence the program can positively influence any rider.

"It shows riders at all skill levels and regardless of rank what right looks like," Gallagher said.

The first organized group ride was hosted Wednesday by the 14th Military Police Brigade.

"Summer is coming, and we are developing a schedule. They are sure to come with this beautiful riding weather we have had," Gallagher said. "Fort Leonard Wood's MSMP is for all Soldiers, Sailors, Airman and Marines of all ranks stationed here at Fort Leonard Wood. Motorcycle safety and education have no service boundaries. The safety of all our service members is our main priority."