SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --
During the fall season, Germany’s foliage paints a picturesque landscape in bright yellows, oranges and reds. Cooler temperatures bring fog that settles in the valleys of the Mosel river, allowing for breathtaking rides through the winding roads of the Eifel region.
Despite its beauty, the fall season also poses a threat that most motorcycle riders are unaware of, but the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Rider Coach Preparation Course is working diligently to change that.
Members from the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem Air Base, along with some members from the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base, attended the MSF Rider Coach Preparation Course, a seven-day motorcycle safety course here during the month of October.
“In this course, we take a licensed, experienced rider and help them learn how to teach others how to be a licensed experienced rider,” said Mark Parco, MSF rider coach trainer. “For some people, this is the hardest thing they have ever done in their life.”
Spangdahlem AB is unique because it offers riders a full-size, secure range for motorcycle courses, where riders participate in 14 different exercises.
“The exercises are all developmental in nature,” said Parco. “The first exercise they don’t even turn on the bike. They learn how to properly hold and operate the controls, and how that equates to making the bike go, stop and turn. The second day helps novice riders fine-tune their skills.”
The importance of motorcycle safety is pivotal within the Air Force, as it is one of the leading causes of death for members in the service.
“Too many people think that when they learn how to make a motorcycle go, stop and turn, they know everything,” said Parco. “They get comfortable doing that, and they think they are at the top of the chain. They get their endorsement and think they don’t need anything else.”
Despite the years of experience riding, Parco emphasizes that he still undergoes training sessions to become a better and more confident rider.
“I started riding well over 50 years ago,” Parco said. “I rode for the better part of 35 years thinking I was a good rider. I was self-taught, never took a class, didn’t crash, and had hundreds of thousands of miles under my belt. I thought I was a good rider. One day I took a class and realized how much I didn’t know about riding.”
Some of the participants realized throughout the course the importance of constantly expanding their skills and knowledge about riding motorcycles.
“I learned a lot, and there’s more to this course than I thought,” said Staff Sgt. Byron Staples, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “I thought it was going to be about teaching a class. Instead it’s more about demonstrating the skill sets needed for riders to visualize what to do, as well as prepare for each exercise.”
For Staples, preparation for the course was the most difficult aspect.
“It’s important because it trains you in the skill sets and the knowledge to be a better and safer rider out on the streets,” said Staples. “This is something I've wanted to do since I was stationed in Okinawa when I was first offered the opportunity to be a rider coach. I felt like at the time I wasn’t ready, but now I am ready.”
It is important for Saber Nation to exercise vigilance and safety protocol while riding motorcycles, especially during the fall season when roads are wet and leaves are scattered across the ground.
Across the branches, the military lost more service members on their personal motorcycles from 2006 to when the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ended, than in those wars combined.
“One thing that we really stress is being a lifelong learner,” said Parco. “We want to send them away from the class both students and coaches knowing that they can always improve. Motorcycling is more a skill of the eyes and mind than it is the hands and feet.”
For more information on the motorcycle courses offered at Spangdahlem, please reach out to the Safety Office at DSN: 452-7233, or 0656561-7233.