MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- Within the past month, five East Coast Marines were involved in serious motorcycle wrecks; three were killed and a fourth lost a leg. While the number of motorcyclists grow, as well as the mishaps, the importance of bike safety also becomes more critical.
The Tri-Command hosted the first Motorcycle Safety Rally on the Air Station March 2 with the support of Fightertown Safety Department staff and the Beaufort Police Department.
“The Air Station commanding officer wanted an event to promote motorcycle safety,” said Adam Gray, a tactical safety specialist at the Air Station’s Safety Department. “Since it’s the first week of bike week, most people are getting their bikes out of storage. It’s the first unofficial day of riding season and we are trying to get Marines some refresher training and new training for things they may not be aware of.”
Despite bad weather the night before, about 40 Marines and sailors attended the Motorcycle Safety Rally.
“It’s a good opportunity to refresh your riding skills and obtain some knowledge that you may have forgotten or didn’t know at all,” said Gunnery Sgt. Charlie Clark, the quality assurance chief with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312.
The rally was open to all Tri-Command riders and offered a riding refresher course, riding safety tips, briefs from local police and fire department officials and also covered tips for storing motorcycles during the winter or deployment.
“We were invited to come over and give insight on what we see from motorcycle operators, motorcycle safety issues and how we enforce motorcycle safety laws,” said Michael Kenninger, a first sergeant with the Beaufort Police Department. “The number of motorcycle riders has increased over the years and we are seeing more military riders. On a motorcycle, you don’t have metal to protect you; one thing we noticed was motorcycle riders seem to take more chances than someone in a vehicle. A lot of times they take those chances because they are on a smaller machine.”
For some, riding a motorcycle is a new experience. For others motorcycles have been a part of their lives from the beginning.
“I picked up riding about 6 months ago, but when you’re about five or six and your dad puts you on the back of his Harley one day, it’s something that you pretty much never forget,” said Lance Cpl. Jason Thompson, an avionics technician with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31. “I like riding and won’t be stopping anytime soon.”
According to Thompson, the rally was a great way meet people you didn’t know who rode and refresh perishable skills, especially if a rider has taken a break and is just now getting back on the bike.
“I see that it’s necessary to know how to ride,” Thompson said. “You can’t just hop on a bike and go riding one day. There are dangers with everything. You have to be more aware of your surroundings since you are more open on a bike, predict what others around you are going to do, watch the road, be aware of what’s on the road and wear the proper gear.”
Although not every rider in the Tri-Command was able to attend, those who were able will pass information about the rally on to other riders.
“Overall, the whole aspect of the rally is important,” Clark said. “There is no specific subject that is more important than another. I’m going to take it all in and pass the knowledge along.”
At the end of the safety rally, Marines and sailors took an afternoon group ride to practice what they had learned and to experience riding in groups - where paying attention plays a large factor to avoiding a mishap.
“This was a test event to see what works and what doesn’t work,” Gray said. “We’re going to make this an annual event. Riding is supposed to be fun, but just make sure you are doing the right thing. So ride safe and have fun!”