KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
Riding a motorcycle can be fun, just ask Capt. Matthew Allen. The 36th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse purchased his Harley Davison Road King in 2008 and has put 150,000 miles on it since then.
Although the motorcycle enthusiast has been riding all kinds of bikes since he was a teenager, he still had to take the required Air Force Advanced Riders Motorcycle Safety course in 2020 in order to ride on base.
“The two-day course was very good because it pushed me outside my comfort zone,” said Allen. “We were put through a variety of scenarios in a controlled environment that you wouldn’t want to experience on the road.”
He is one of 87 riders on Keesler, 16 of which are members of the 403rd Wing.
Ensuring that wing members such as Allen get their required training is Master Sgt. Frank Strong’s job.
The 403rd Wing occupational safety manager oversees the Motorcycle Safety Program. According to Air Force Instruction 91-207, the U.S. Air Force Traffic Safety Program, all Air Force members who ride motorcycles must attend a motorcycle safety course and wear the required personal protective equipment.
“The Air Force focuses on motorcycle safety because … one in three off-duty fatalities are the result of a motorcycle accident,” said Strong, who started full-time as an Air Reserve Technician in the 403rd Wing Safety Office in May, and has been with the wing since 2018.
According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcycle riders are not only more likely to be involved in a crash than a car, but deaths on these bikes occur nearly 28 times more frequently than in other vehicles.
In Fiscal Year 2021, the Air Force lost 18 motorcyclists and inexperience was one of the leading causes, said Strong. Other factors included speeding and alcohol, he added.
Nationwide in 2020, of those who were in a motorcycle accident, 36% of riders did not have a valid license, 41% were alcohol-impaired, and 57% were not wearing helmets, according to NHTSA statistics.
To save lives, and assist Reserve Citizen Airmen who want to ride their motorcycle on base, Strong said new riders are required to receive the initial motorcycle safety briefing from their unit motorcycle safety representative, or MSR. If their unit doesn’t have one, they can reach out to another unit MSR or the 403rd Wing Safety Office. Once that’s completed, their information is tracked in the Motorcycle Safety Tracking Tool, referred to as MUSTT. Members are then scheduled for the Initial Motorcycle Safety Course, offered through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. As a cost-saving measure, Keesler AFB members now take the initial courses at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport, said Strong.
The only difference for experienced riders is that they can take the intermediate and advanced training at the NCBC or at Keesler Air Force Base, which is through the 81st Training Wing Safety Office. Strong can also assist with scheduling wing members for the initial, intermediate and advanced courses. Experienced riders must recertify their training every five years, said Strong.
“These courses are required for active duty but if you are a traditional reservist, and you do not want to drive your motorcycle on base, you don’t have to go through the initial motorcycle safety course, however, you still must meet state and local requirements,” said Strong, who added that he still encourages wing riders to take the free training, which is available to active duty members, reservists, retirees and dependents.
Allen, who is now his squadron’s motorcycle safety representative, encourages all wing riders to take the courses.
“Every region has their own unique safety hazards, which for riders on the Gulf Coast includes things like metal-grated draw bridges and alligators hanging out on the road,” he said. “The motorcycle safety program assists riders by making them aware of those issues, and the courses provide riding information and techniques in which any rider can benefit from.”
For more information about the motorcycle safety program, refer to AFI 91-207, or contact Strong at 228-377-4033.