MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- The increased number of motorcycle riders within the Marine Corps and the rise in motorcycle related injuries has led the Marine Corps to increase its motorcycle safety programs. In an effort to combat the recent rise of motorcycle mishaps, the Marine Corps has established command motorcycle mentoring programs and has started using different protective equipment in its motorcycle safety courses. The mentoring program combined with the motorcycle safety courses is for all riders benefit. Command motorcycle mentoring programs were established by the Commanding General of II Marine Expeditionary Force earlier this year. These mentoring programs will hopefully reduce the number of motorcycle accidents.“The purpose of this mentor club program is to promote safety and camaraderie among Marines of all experience,” said Master Sgt. Stephen Pethe, Headquarters & Headquarters Squadron motorcycle club president. “It is also designed so experienced riders can mentor younger riders.”“H&HS currently has 53 riders,” Pethe said. “It is Marine Corps ordered so every rider in the squadron has to join.”“Command motorcycle clubs are designed to promote enjoyable, responsible, and mature driving behavior, for all motorcycle riders, in order to drastically reduce the number of motorcycle mishaps,” Pethe said. “every squadron has their own club.”According to Pethe, the reactions to the club have been mixed, but he believes the Marines will come around.“As Marines we may not always like everything we have to do, but what other organizations will pay you to go out and do what we love, ride motorcycles,” Pethe said.The Marine Corps has also decided to add to its motorcycle safety course by introducing a new safety vest that will be used by riders of the basic riders course and the experienced riders course.The vest works by installing the safety belt receptacle strap to the motorcycle and attaching a lanyard to the receptacle and the vest. In an accident, the lanyard is detached from the bike and two CO2 cartridges inflate the vest providing a cushion of air around the rider’s torso. The rider’s chest, back, spine and vital organs are immediately surrounded by an impact-cushioning airbag. “It’s not a substitute for invincible attitudes and bad driving behaviors,” said Ron Lanoie, the Air Station’s deputy safety director. “It may not pass the ‘cool’ factor for younger riders, but if it can save a life then it’s good.”All persons who wish to ride aboard a Marine Corps installation, must be able to show successful completion of the motorcycle safety course. All active duty Marines must take the course whether they ride on or off base.The monthly courses held here are free to Marines and sailors and averages around 24 students per class.“The intent of these courses is to teach the hazards of riding, how to be aware of other riders, emergency stops and what not to do when riding,” said Lanoie.According to a recent bulletin from Marine Corps Installations East, the following proper protective equipment is mandatory for anyone operating or riding as a passenger on a motorcycle on MCIEAST Installations and for all military personnel operating or riding on a motorcycle off installations, on-and-off road, in uniform or in civilian clothes: n A properly fastened protective helmet, which meets the standards of the Snell Memorial Foundation, the American National Standards Institute, or the Department of Transportation. n Impact or shatter resistant goggles or full-face shield attached to the helmet. A windshield, eyeglasses or fairing alone is not considered proper eye protection. n An approved reflective vest, which is a mesh/fabric vest that is bright yellow, international orange or lime-green with reflective strips front and back shall be worn as the outer most garment. Black reflective vest are no longer authorized. When backpacks are worn it is recommended that a reflective running belt be wrapped around the backpack. n Properly worn long-sleeved shirt or jacket, long-legged trousers and full-fingered gloves or mittens. It is encouraged that the jacket be protective motorcycle safety jacket (recommended with shoulder and elbow pads). This is authorized for wear by Marines in uniform. n Hard-soled shoes with heels. The use of leather boots or over the ankle shoes is encouraged. n While in civilian clothes motorcycle jackets and pants constructed of abrasion resistant materials such as leather, Kevlar, and/or Cordura and containing impact-absorbing padding are strongly encouraged.“I believe the first step in making a responsible decision to ride is understanding the high level of risk in motorcycling,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jose Valdez, the Air Station’s ground safety manager. “We can lower the risk through our attitudes, with the protective gear we wear, and developing mental and physical strategies through training.”For more information, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation has a Web site, www.msf-usa.org, which has many different tips on how to improve their riding skills. For information about motorcycle safety aboard the Air Station call 228-6938.