Warm summer days are approaching, and Soldiers are gearing up to hit the road on their motorcycles – but first they have to make sure they’re properly trained.
The Fort Campbell Installation Safety Office hosts motorcycle safety courses year-round, but those efforts are especially important during National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month in May.
“We can give them the skills they need, and several people have come back to us and said what they learned here probably saved their lives,” said Chris Croley, Army Traffic Safety Training Program, or ATSTP, manager and ISO safety specialist. “The more Soldiers we get trained, the better off and the safer we are, and we like the downward trend in traffic fatalities. We had four last year and we’re at two for this year, but the ultimate end state goal is that we don’t have any.”
Soldiers are required to take the Basic Rider Course, or BRC, before they can operate a motorcycle on or off post. BRC instructors are contracted through Cape Fox Professional Services and often bring decades of experience to the table, Croley said.
“They’re very experienced, very polished and people come in with an open mind and sit down to absorb all of it,” he said. “That’s one of the first things we tell them: Listen and absorb what these guys are giving you, and they will make you a safe rider.”
ISO offers more advanced safety courses for Soldiers based on what kind of motorcycle they operate, and those are required within 12 months of completing the BRT. Individual units also conduct motorcycle refresher training for Soldiers returning from deployment after at least 180 days.
First Sergeant Anthony Zarlino, the motorcycle safety officer for 3rd Brigade Combat Team, said Soldiers directly impact mission readiness when they learn about safe riding.
“With motorcycle riders, there are not typically minor accidents,” Zarlino said. “If you wreck your motorcycle in a single bike accident or in a collision with an object or another vehicle, it is more often than not a bad day. We need every Soldier standing in our formation today to be here tomorrow in order to train and be ready to win the future fight for our nation.”
BRC allows Soldiers to learn about basic riding skills, proactive safety measures and recommended gear, such as Department of Transportation-approved or Snell-certified helmets, reflective clothing and straight open ankle boots.
“You should wear the proper personal protective equipment and make sure that your motorcycle is actually mechanically sound, good tires being one of the key elements of that,” Croley said. “Make sure everything is actually proper and that your maintenance is up-to-date, and that all the bike’s mechanical aspects and your signals are actually working.”
When out on the road, Croley said the most important thing is to be observant, and that advice holds just as true for the drivers sharing the road with motorcyclists.
“You need to be mindful of your following distance, watch the other drivers on the road and stay out of people’s blind spots,” he said. “The big thing for drivers is to be observant. Make sure you give riders a second glance and that you turn your head over into your blind spot, because the bike may be overtaking you.”
More than 1,000 cyclists a year learn those lessons hands-on through safety courses at Fort Campbell, and Croley said that level of engagement was even higher around 10 years ago.
“Years ago, the interest for motorcycles was at an all-time high compared to what it is now,” said John Mullen, safety specialist, ISO. “That has kind of fallen off based on the amount of Soldiers rotating out for PCS, but even with what we have right now and under the current restrictions for COVID-19 that interest is still very high, especially during the spring and summer months.”
That demand means it’s important for Soldiers to understand the registration process if they want to sign up for a course themselves.
“The biggest thing for registration purposes is to pick a time that you want to go, schedule it with your leadership and make sure you’re not going to have to go to the field,” Croley said. “The people who are riding right now were signed up in late March or early April, and we’re already booked out into July. I don’t know if it’s the COVID-19 situation, but it seems like this year there’s a lot of people trying to get into classes.”
After contacting their unit training NCO to check their schedule, Soldiers can contact the ATSTP office at 270-461-0067 or register for safety courses online at https://imc.army.mil.airs.
“It’s important that Soldiers get with their first line leadership, because in order to ride a motorcycle on or off the installation that’s a risk assessment,” Mullen said. “The decision is whether it’s a good idea to ride a motorcycle, and the counseling or leadership they’re providing [addresses] the things they’re going to need or what’s required by policy or regulation. That starts here too, at BRC.”