Motorcycle safety and the military are like back roads and motorcycles. They go together. The U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army leadership at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall take motorcycle safety seriously and they support servicemembers who ride.
In October 2009, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Commander Col. Carl Coffman issued a policy memorandum stating the requirements to operate a motorcycle on base. To ride a motorcycle on JBM-HH all servicemembers and Department of Defense civilians must observe a number of requirements. These rules and guidelines can be found in: DoD Instruction 6055.4, DoD Traffic Safety Program, Army Regulation 385-10, The Army Safety Program, Marine Corps Order (MCO) 5100.19E WCH 1-3, Marine Corps Traffic Safety Program (Drivesafe) and Marine Corps Order (MCO) 5100.29A, CH 1 Marine Corps Safety Program.
Each Marine who owns a motorcycle must register the bike with his or her commander, take a DoD-approved rider course, wear protective gear on and off base and join the base motorcycle club. Marine Corps Base Quantico offers certified basic and advanced motorcycle riders courses for riders of sport bikes, cruisers, firt bikes and all terrain vehicles. These courses are free for servicemembers and DoD civilians.
H&S Battalion at Henderson Hall started a motorcycle safety club on Jan. 27, 2010. The battalion order governing this program states, “The Headquarters and Service Battalion Motorcycle Safety Program will save lives and prevent disabling injuries caused by avoidable and preventable motorcycle accidents and mishaps. By drawing upon the compilation of knowledge and wisdom of our experienced operators and riders, and the concerns and curiosity of our junior riders, this program will establish an enduring framework whereby overall motorcycle operator, rider proficiency and expertise will increase, thereby preserving the Corps’ most precious assets ... our warriors”.
In 2008, a grim reality came to light; more Marines were killed in motorcycle accidents than to enemy fire in Iraq. A deadly year, 25 Marines died in crashes. In that same period, 20 Marines have been killed in action in Iraq. In a service-wide message, then Commandant Gen. James Conway said, “The change was prompted by ‘alarming’ rates of accidents among riders in recent months.”
Marines like Capt. Andrew A. Yeung are required to join and highly encouraged to attend their unit motorcycle club events, which provide further education of proper riding techniques and build unit camaraderie. Civilian employees who ride, like Peter Hill, safety engineer for HQMC Safety Division are also encouraged to participate.
Yeung works at Headquarters Marine Corps, Programs and Resources, in the Budget Formulation section and rides his 2007 Husqvarna SMR 510 supermoto once or twice a week to work. The motorcycle gets 70 miles per gallon. He lives close enough to work to ride his bicycle or run on the other days.
Hill is a safety engineer, who works for Headquarters Marine Corps Safety division writes and interprets safety policy for the corps. Hill’s ride is a 1989 Honda Pacific Coast 800.
“I’m the reason the Marine Corps did away with requiring the reflective vest,” said Hill. “The HQMC safety division did analysis of the types of motorcycle accidents occurring. Previously, we had great emphasis on the reflective vest being the primary piece of equipment we wanted people to wear.”
“We really need to emphasize their equipment, like this kind of stuff,” said Hill, as he reached over and gave Yeung a hearty slap on his riding jacket, which included padded shoulders, elbows and a CE-rated spine protector, “and try to come up with policies that make sense to the rider. If it makes sense to the rider, then they are going to listen when leadership says something, instead of just thinking, “Oh they don’t know what they’re talking about because they don’t ride motorcycles.’”
According to the research results, most of the accidents that are hurting and killing people are when they lose control and do not have the skills to manage a bike at higher speeds and around corners. An accident where the motorist does not see a motorcyclist is rare.
Annually, Rolling Thunder, held over the Memorial Day weekend, emphasizes the concept of safety in numbers. Groups of riders are more visible and provide a great support group for minor repairs and mentorship for new riders. The group generally also travels at moderate speeds during rides.
Successful completion of a Motorcycle Safety Foundation Course is required to register a motorcycle. Proof of course completion from other areas will be accepted. Telephone the JBM-HH Safety Office at 703-696-6996 for training classes. The Fort Myer ID Card Facility is located at 106 Custer Road, Building 202, Room B19. Operations are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Call them at 703-696-3030. A smaller, two-station ID card section is located at Henderson Hall, Building 29, Room 300. Call 703-693-7152 for more information.