By Angela Williams, Army Flier Staff WriterJune 7, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 7, 2012) -- Although Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month has come and gone, Soldiers can still take steps to keep themselves and others safe while on the road.
One of those steps is wearing the required personal protective equipment. Another step is taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation training courses offered on post, according to Sharon Manning, director of the installation safety office.
"In order to ride a motorcycle, all Soldiers are required to receive initial training in the Basic Rider Course, whether they are going to ride on or off the installation" she said. "It's a two-day course and motorcycles are provided."
The BRC is designed for individuals interested in motorcycles and covers the "broad strokes" of motorcycle safety and operation, explained Andrew Smith, lead instructor for the Traffic Safety Training Program at Fort Rucker. "It's really, really well constructed."
Motorcycles, helmets and gloves are all provided for the course participants, he added.
Within a year after taking the BRC, Soldiers must also complete either the Experienced Rider Course or the Military Sport Bike Rider Course, Manning said. Soldiers must use their own motorcycles during both the ERC and the MSBRC.
"Every three years after completing either the ERC or the MSBRC, the Soldier must complete the sustainment training, which consists of taking an Army-approved advanced level motorcycle course," she added. "At Fort Rucker, this training consists of the ERC or the MSBRC."
According to Smith, the ERC is a "skills plus" course. It starts with a basic review of safety procedures, but largely, "it's interaction among a bunch of riders and what we do to keep ourselves alive and well with the riding that we're doing."
The MSBRC includes four hours of classroom time and four hours of time on the motorcycle.
"It's designed to give them more skills and knowledge about their capabilities and their bike's capabilities," he said. "Just because you can go fast doesn't mean you should."
Instead, the class emphasizes more advanced skill, accuracy and cornering techniques, he said.
In addition, to the BRC, ERC and MSBRC requirements, "Soldiers who are returning from 180 days of deployment are required to take a two-hour motorcycle refresher training course," Manning said.
"Benefits to taking training are that it improves both your mental and physical capabilities for riding and helps identify bad habits the rider has obtained," she added. "It also helps you become a more defensive driver and improves your perception."
No matter where they are in the training or where they are riding, all Soldiers must wear the required PPE, Manning said.
"Soldiers must comply with these requirements whether they are riding on post or off post," she said. "If a Soldier is riding in a state that does not require a helmet, the Soldier is still required by Army regulation to wear a helmet."
The PPE requirements include full-fingered gloves, over-the-ankle footwear, eye protection, long-sleeve shirt, long pants and helmet. Riders are also required to wear fluorescent colors and retro-reflective material, Manning said.
"This requirement is satisfied by wearing a reflective vest, a jacket with reflective materials or a brightly-colored reflective-type belt like a physical training belt," she explained.
During a recent BRC course, participants offered suggestions and asked questions about fulfilling the PPE requirements. One Soldier recently moved to Fort Rucker from another post and wanted to make sure he was abiding by the PPE regulations for this installation.
"Is it as cool looking as I want it to be?" Smith asked of the protective gear. "Maybe, maybe not. But it reduces my headaches and heartaches."
He encouraged the course participants to abide by the on-post requirements for protective gear no matter where they ride.
"We're not dying on base, we're dying off base," he said. "If it's good enough to wear on base, why do we stop outside the gate and take our stuff off? That just doesn't make sense.
"We've got Soldiers surviving wars, then coming home and dying on America's highways," he added. "It's tragic."
Department of the Army civilians, contractors, retirees and Family members are not required to complete the motorcycle training, but, according to Smith, several local companies offer MSF-based training and many of them offer discounts for military dependents and retirees.
To register for a motorcycle training course, visit https://apps.imcom.army.mil/airs. For questions about the training, call 255-1027 or 255-0779.