By Staff Sgt. Wallace Bonner
4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office
Shiny, clean motorcycles leaned on kickstands in a semicircle, as their riders stood by with helmets and other personal protective equipment in hand at the Kit Carson Memorial parking lot outside Fort Carson’s Gate 1, awaiting the signal to head out for Bent’s Old Fort, near La Junta.
The riders were Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, and the early morning ride Aug. 30 was one of their periodic motorcycle check rides conducted as part of the Army Motorcycle Mentorship Program to teach Soldiers how to perform proper preventive maintenance checks and services on their motorcycles and how to ride safely.
According to the U.S. Army Combat Readiness and Safety Center, the purpose of the program is to serve as a voluntary motorcycle club where seasoned and newer riders can create a supportive environment of responsible motorcycle enjoyment and riding.
“They help everybody that’s a rider understand their bikes,” said Sgt. John Mendez, battalion master driver and company motorcycle mentor, Headquarters Support Company, HHBN, 4th Inf. Div.
Soldiers learn how to identify problems with their bikes as well as gain knowledge from each other, he said.
The check ride consisted of a number of activities.
“The day before the ride, we go over safety inspections and make sure everyone’s ride is safe,” said Mendez. “It’s as simple as a PMCS on a military vehicle.”
Within the PMCS portion, is a “T-CLOCKS” — tires, controls, lights, oil, chassis and kickstand — inspection, said Mendez.
The morning of the ride, the Soldiers received a route and safety brief by the HHBN motorcycle mentor, Sgt. 1st Class James Sweeney, battalion military intelligence noncommissioned-officer-in-charge, who stressed the importance for all riders to attend motorcycle check rides.
“(People) need to understand the check ride is not just to have fun, there is training (conducted) mid-ride … (This mentorship ride) is mainly about freeway driving; this is the first time we’ve ridden on the freeway,” said Sweeney. “People need to come out and participate; they’ll have a good time.”
Mendez also commented on the type of training Soldiers receive during motorcycle check rides.
“We’ll get people familiar with moving on highways; we’ve gone over different types of terrains, getting people familiar with their vehicles,” said Mendez. “We’ll go over how to move as a group.”
The check rides are focused on safety, but the riders also have a lot of fun.
“Getting everybody together is a wonderful thing, and gives us a chance to bond in a different way,” said Pfc. Marvin Ortiz, Headquarters Support Company. “It lets experienced riders share knowledge with newer riders.”
Ortiz said that he’s been riding for 15 years; his Family owns a chopperbuilding business and his first vehicle was a motorcycle, so he’s been around motorcycles all his life. That doesn’t preclude him from learning on the check ride, though.
“For me, coming from a different place, it’s good to learn everybody’s routine and knowledge,” said Ortiz. “No matter how good a rider you are, there’s always something you can improve.”
The bonding that takes place between Soldiers sharing their enjoyment of riding motorcycles is also important.
“People who ride two-wheels up, it’s a brotherhood, a sisterhood; it’s like a family gathering,” said Mendez. “It’s for everyone to get experience and have a good time.”
The Soldiers were appreciative of the Army support of motorcycle safety as well.
“I’m grateful that the Army has placed such importance on this,” said Ortiz. “Every day you see riders making mistakes, and the Army sees it as a way of improving safety. I’ll give it my full support.”