By Sgt. Joseph GuentherOctober 15, 2012
FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- According to the Department of the Army, "The Army's mission is to fight and win our nation's wars by providing prompt, sustained land dominance across the full range of military operations and spectrum of conflict in support of combatant commanders." Accomplishing this very broad mission requires well-trained, healthy and physically fit Soldiers to fill the ranks. Among the challenges of recruiting and training, is ensuring soldiers are well taken care of by their chain of command, and are properly equipped to face life's challenges so they can continue to fight, and train future warriors.
One problem commands may face is motorcycle safety. It is especially important to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. As the nation's Global Response Force, the "Panther Brigade" must be ready to send its Paratroopers anywhere in the world to help resolve any conflict with minimal notice. Each Paratrooper in the brigade must be able to support that mission, and that means being safe and responsible in every environment and situation, said Chris McKnight, the brigade safety officer.
"Other than combat, motorcycles are the single biggest killer of our Paratroopers in this division," said Col. Michael Fenzel, commander of 3rd BCT. "I think our brigade already has the best motorcycle safety plan in the entire division, and possibly the Army."
"We want to take it up a notch," Fenzel continued. "We want a full day focused on making sure we are thinking hard about how we ride."
The training began in a classroom environment discussing everything from to proper equipment to riding procedures. The class was attended by nearly every motorcycle owner in the brigade, in addition to their battalion command teams so they could bring a deeper understanding of the training requirements back to their units.
"During the morning, I was exposed to facts about motorcycle accidents and safety that I hadn't known previously," 1st Lt. Allison Shok of 5th Squadron, 73rd Airborne Cavalry Regiment added. "Also, actual riders within the brigade came up and explained their personal stories which really made me think about how to be a safer rider."
The instruction continued into the afternoon with hands-on experience as riders assembled to test their skills with sharp turns and other maneuvers. Their motorcycles and equipment were inspected.
Shok said, "The motorcycle safety day was a great combination of hands-on learning and classroom time."
Command Sgt. Maj. Nicholas Rolling of 3rd BCT explained the importance of experiencing motorcycle training and refreshers. "Being on a motorcycle is labor intensive," he said. "It's like being in a combat operation out there on the streets, especially in this area."
The training culminated with a "Slowest Rider" race, in which riders had to follow a course as slowly as possible without putting their feet on the ground. In this exercise, the first one to cross the finish line, or lose his or her balance, lost. The winners were awarded with a custom 3rd Brigade Combat Team reflective vest.
The instruction was well received by the Paratroopers participating in the training event. "This was really great, I got a lot of out of it," said Spc. Nate Curtiss, an infantryman with Company B, 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He said it was like the civilian training he received back home, and that the instruction and practice were an excellent refresher.
"Chris showed us the basic skills that we could improve on and then let us ride a custom-designed course," Shok added. "Not only did I learn a lot, but I had fun too!"