Kentucky Air Guard makes motorcycle safety a priority

By Master Sgt. Philip Speck, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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Kentucky Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Don Yeats, 123rd Special Tactics Squadron radio maintenance specialist, weaves in out of cones during a motorcycle safety train-the-trainer course at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on Aug. 23, 2012. The course, part of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s RiderCoach Program, was designed in part to train student instructors so they can go on to teach motorcycle safety to other service members. (Kentucky Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Motorcycle accidents continue to be one of the leading causes of death among members of the Air Force, with seven Airmen having lost their lives in bike crashes since Memorial Day alone, according to data from the Air Force Safety Center.

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Kentucky Air National Guard Master Sgt. Mark Williams, vehicle operations non-commissioned-officer-in-charge for the 123rd Logistics Readiness Squadron, turns a corner during a motorcycle safety train-the-trainer course at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on Aug. 22, 2012. The course, part of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s RiderCoach Program, was designed in part to train student instructors so they can go on to teach motorcycle safety to other service members. (Kentucky Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

But safety officials across the Kentucky National Guard are now better prepared than ever to reduce motorcycle accidents, thanks to a motorcycle safety train-the-trainer course conducted at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base from Aug. 20-27.

The eight-day course, facilitated by members of the 123rd Airlift Wing Safety Office and taught by an instructor from the National Motorcycle Safety Foundation, drew more than 20 students from the Kentucky Army and Air National Guard, said Tech. Sgt. Luke Piro, 123rd ground safety technician. Six of those students are now certified instructors who can teach the course to other service members at their home units.

“The National Guard Bureau put out a Guard-wide email looking for volunteers to host this event, and the 123rd Airlift Wing is always ready to take on new missions,” Piro explained. “We’re making a push to change the culture in the world of motorcycle safety.”

The Kentucky course, funded by the National Guard Bureau, included four days of classroom instruction and four days of hands-on training covering everything from basic riding skills to defensive driving. Instructor-trainees also were given the opportunity to teach the material to other students while receiving coaching from the MSF expert, Tim Cody.

The course was broken into 17 exercises, the first nine of which dealt with basic riding skills like straight-line driving, shifting, stopping and turning, Piro said. The final eight covered advanced skills in those same areas, as well as situational awareness and obstacle avoidance.

The course placed a high emphasis on situational awareness and defensive driving, so that riders would be better conditioned to respond quickly to unsafe conditions as they develop.

“When you’re riding, you definitely want to know how to be seen, where to be seen and how to anticipate where that next threat is coming from,” said Lt. Col. Todd Lally, 123rd Airlift Wing chief of safety. “That is what this training will teach you.”

Cody said it’s important for riders to remember that highways were made four-wheeled vehicles, not motorcycles.

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Kentucky Air National Guard members talk about the next exercise during a motorcycle safety train-the-trainer course at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on Aug. 23, 2012. The course, part of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s RiderCoach Program, was designed in part to train student instructors so they can go on to teach motorcycle safety to other service members. (Kentucky Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

“Nothing on the road is designed for motorcycles, so we have to operate a motorcycle within the realm of highways that are designed for cars and trucks,” said Cody, who has been teaching the MSF course for 17 years. “Motorcycles only represent 2 percent of miles traveled on highways, but represent about 14 percent of the deaths on the nation’s highways.”

The student instructors attending the course said they decided to become teachers because they wanted to give back to the military biker community, making Soldiers and Airmen safer riders.

“Every day that we’re out there on the road, there are people who don’t pay attention to you, people talking on cell phones who don’t know you are there,” said Master Sgt. Mark Williams, non-commissioned-officer-in-charge of vehicle operations for the 123rd Logistics Readiness Squadron.

Lt. Col. Armand Bolotte said he wanted to become a coach because he felt an obligation to mentor younger troops.

“I felt like it was a way to give back, to help those who need to know how to ride safely,” said Bolotte, operations officer for the 123rd Logistics Readiness Squadron. “Motorcycle accidents are one of the biggest killers of Airmen in the Air Force, and we can help the younger generation by doing a better job of teaching the basics of good riding.”

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