FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- The Fort Sam Provost Marshal Office unveiled three new patrol vehicles called Segways - personal transporters - April 20 during the Fort Sam Houston Fiesta.

The new addition of these personal transporters will be an innovative addition to the mobile fleet of patrol cars, motorcycles and bicycles currently being used by the Provost Marshal.

The Segway is a computerized two-wheeled electric scooter that operates on dual lithium ion batteries and is charged by plugging it into an outlet for about six hours. They have a maximum speed of about 12 miles per hour, and can travel about 15 miles on a single charge. They weigh between 105 and 110 pounds and can hold up to 250 pounds.

The Segway is versatile and easy to use; it takes only about hour to master. It allows riders to control their movement and speed by the way they lean their bodies. A rider only has to lean forward to go forward and lean back to reverse.

To steer the Segway riders only need to lean in the direction they want to go. Because of its adaptability, the new Segways were put into use immediately during the Fort Sam Houston Fiesta celebration, catching plenty of looks and questions from onlookers at the event.

Col. Wendy Martinson, garrison commander, Fort Sam Houston, took a spin on the Segway during its unveiling. She said, "I think they are fabulous; it can stop on a dime and can move around in a crowd quite easily. It places police officers above the rest of the crowd, giving them a height advantage; they can do a 360 scan right in place and they don\'t need a lot of room."

At a total cost of just above $14,000, Maj. Christopher Hayes, director of emergency services, said, "Putting that cost in perspective, Segways are virtually maintenance free. There are usually no maintenance or warranty problems with them. In about five years the batteries will have to be replaced, the tires last a long time, and they don't use gas - just batteries, they're earth friendly.

"The Segways will be used for crosswalk enforcement, monitoring the school system and patrolling Lincoln Military Housing and will be replacing the bicycle patrol. We will be taking them out in the community with our outreach program enhancing interaction between police officers and the community," said Hayes.

The Segway is more versatile and proves useful at large events providing officers with ease of access. It will enable officers to enter buildings that have wheelchair lifts.

"As long as there is an elevator, we can go wherever we want to go," said Hayes.

Patrol Officer Vincent Saucedo was one of the first to try the Segway during the fiesta. "It's great. Today is the first day I will be using it; mobility is good. It doesn't matter what terrain you're driving on, it could be asphalt or hilly. It was a good investment," said Saucedo.

"The introduction of the Segway not only proved to be a public relations success, but also proved effective and efficient in patrolling the fiesta packed with the participants. Segways are here to stay at Fort Sam Houston and will become a common sight to the FSH community," said Hayes.

(Minnie Jones works for the Public Information Office at Fort Sam Houston, Texas)