JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --
In the Air Force, there are more than 27,000 motorcycle riders. Every five years, riders are required to attend a refresher training as part of a lifelong learning approach, according to the Air Force Safety Center and as prescribed in Air Force Instruction 91-207, Traffic Safety Program.
Part of this lifelong learning approach includes motorcyclists coming together to share techniques and build camaraderie. Members from the 1st Fighter Wing hosted a Motorcycle Safety Day open to all Department of Defense riders in the Hampton Roads, Virginia, area on June 3, 2022, the first one the wing has hosted since 2012.
“My squadron commander reached out to me and asked if I could come up with a way to build rider morale in the wing,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Tanner, 1st Munitions Squadron munitions support equipment maintenance crew chief. “This way, the riders in the area can link up and share new skillsets like proper gear and riding tips. This allows us to really get a glimpse of the riding community here.”
The day included events where riders tested their skills in a controlled environment. The skill challenges included a slow race, cone weave, and a U-Turn.
“It’s great to get like-minded people together to focus on riding safety and build a community,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Michael Lundy, 1st MUNS commander. “That way, our riders stay protected and they can actually feel like they’re part of a community that’s beneficial to them as riders and aligns with the Air Force values.”
Traffic is always a factor when living in a heavily populated area like Hampton Roads, especially when riding a motorcycle. According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, there were more than 1,800 motorcycle crashes in Virginia in 2020, 77 percent of which resulted in an injury and 10 percent resulting in a fatality.
“Motorcycling has a very diverse community,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. James Thornton, 633d Air Base Wing safety office motorcycle safety program manager. “The majority of riders don't have a mentor or anyone else they ride with. This can lead to bad habits being developed over time, leading to an accident. Events like this give every rider at all skill levels an opportunity to be involved at that next level. It opens the door for riders to get immersed in the culture and sharpen their skills through mentorship, fellowship, and community.”
At the end of the event on base, riders gathered and took to the roads for a ride through Williamsburg, James City County and Isle of Wight County. For Tanner, this event has a deep personal meaning.
“My grandfather was a rider and he had a Harley when I was little,” said Tanner. “I loved the sound [of the engine] and I always grew up wanting to ride a bike. I just ‘full sent it’ and got a bike and did the proper training when I joined [the Air Force].”
To keep Joint Base Langley-Eustis riders safe, Thornton gives some advice.
“We have global dominance because of how we train,” Thornton said. “It's no different for riding. Getting trained and keeping it up too, will give our riders the best chance at eliminating an accident or at least, being able to walk away when it occurs. Keep the sticky side down.”
Thornton also offered some advice for riding in Hampton Roads.
“Most accidents happen in curves and intersections according to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation,” Thornton said. “Our area is unique in that I-64 is equally as dangerous. The stretch between Williamsburg and the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel has become hazardous due to heavy traffic and tourism. The roadway is degrading and population density has led to erratic drivers.”
For more information on motorcycle safety programs at JBLE, you can contact the 633d ABW Safety Office at (757) 501-8224. Most answers can be found through their SharePoint site, https://www.milsuite.mil/book/docs/DOC-551442.
For more on the Air Force Safety Center’s motorcycle riding program, go to https://www.safety.af.mil/Divisions/Occupational-Safety-Division/Air-Force-Rider/.