JBLE Motorcycle riders celebrate Safety Day, Armed Forces Run & Rodeo

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jason J. Brown
  • 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
More than 300 motorcycle riders brought their beloved bikes to Fort Eustis to share the spirit of safety, and enjoy a day of beautiful springtime riding weather at the 2012 Joint Base Langley-Eustis Armed Forces Motorcycle Ride and Rodeo, May 11.

The annual event, which is held each May to promote Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, featured a bike show, rider skills challenges, trophies and prizes. There was also a "poker run," a ride which took riders from Fort Eustis to nearby Gloucester and Yorktown, Va., stopping at establishments along the way to collect playing card stamps before returning to the post in the early afternoon. Members from all branches of the armed forces, as well as civilian employees and retirees, participated in the event.

Proud owners brought a wide variety of motorcycles to the rally, ranging from sleek street machines to classic chromed hogs. Before the events kicked off, representatives from the 633rd Air Base Wing Safety Office and volunteers performed comprehensive safety briefings and inspections of all cycles and riders during registration.

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Bradley W. May, commanding general of the Army's Initial Military Training Center of Excellence, donned a black leather, motorcycle jacket while addressing the crowd during the opening ceremony. The general shared not only his enthusiasm, but an emphasis on the importance of motorcycle safety.

"The armed forces continue to have challenges with incidents and accidents. What's important is to hold these rallies where you bring experience riders and those who don't have as much experience together to talk about and focus on having a wonderful time while mitigating risk," May said. "Fundamentally, it's such an important facet of why we do these types of events.

"Have a wonderful time, but at the same time, share some of those lessons learned to protect each other," he added.

Bob Longworth, the 633rd ABW Chief of Safety, said the event is designed to be fun and entertaining, but at its core is held to promote safe riding among Service members. Longworth, better known as "Safety Bob," said motorcycles are becoming increasingly popular, especially with the rising gas prices. However, operating a motorcycle involves much more risk and takes more skill than operating a four wheeled vehicle.

"The military has a population of high risk folks; aggressive, type-A, adrenaline-laden, often young and highly excited, who unfortunately are killing themselves on motorcycles as a result of these traits," said John Musser, Felker Army Airfield manager. "[These are] great traits in combat, but poor traits on the asphalt of our nation's roads. As a result, the accident rates, serious injury rates and fatality rates have been significantly increasing."

Safety Bob added that last year, the armed forces lost 91 Service members to motorcycle accidents, and countless others were seriously injured. Of these, 83 percent were operating a sport bike, which are more difficult to handle, and can go much faster, much quicker.

"Our overarching goal is to educate riders, present and future, that they need to make an extra effort to mitigate the risk while riding a motorcycle," he said. "Taking basic and advanced motorcycle safety courses, wearing the proper, personal-protective equipment, and teaming up with more experienced riders through motorcycle mentorship programs are excellent ways to manage that risk.

"Additionally, the incorporation of a detailed inspection of bikes, riders and required documents, the shared experience of passion and camaraderie between riders of all services, to include leadership at all levels, and the fun and challenge of events, makes this annual motorcycle gathering uniquely productive and enjoyable," he continued.

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Plank, assigned to the 7th Sustainment Brigade, echoed Longworth's sentiment, wheeling in his showpiece, a 2009 Victory Cory Ness Jackpot, to the delight of fellow riders.

"It's a great event, being able to bring Soldiers, Airmen and all Service members together to share our passion - riding," Plank said. "I came out last year and was blown away by how well-organized the rally was. I had a great time, and I couldn't wait to come out again this year."