By Scott Prater | Mountaineer staff
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Due to a recent increase in accidents and mishaps, Fort Carson active-duty, military-member motorcyclists must obtain a Fort Carson Motorcycle License, through their unit motorcycle mentor, to ride legally on or off post.
The policy, which affects military personnel only, is effective immediately, though military police and access-control-point personnel won’t begin enforcing the policy until July 15. Military members who are new to the installation will have a 30-day grace period to obtain the new license.
Though the new policy may seem stringent to some at first, it does follow Army regulation, and the process for obtaining the new license is fairly simple.
As part of the policy, most units on post are assigned a motorcycle mentor, who assists riders in obtaining the required rider training and filing the proper paperwork to earn their Fort Carson Motorcycle License.
“This new policy is designed to provide more mentorship to our motorcycle riders,” said Derrick Merriwether, safety specialist, 4th Infantry Division. “We’re training them to the best of our ability to ensure that they are safe on the roads. That’s what this is all about. When a rider joins the program, their unit motorcycle mentor will check the rider’s bike, check their personal protective equipment and their level of experience. Then the mentor will work with the rider to be better prepared for the road.”
All riders seeking a Fort Carson motorcycle license must hold a state issued driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement, and must pass the post’s Basic Rider Course, hosted regularly by experienced instructors at the Fort Carson Motorcycle Training Range.
“This really affects the new Soldiers — the (privates) through (specialists) — who buy these brand-new vehicles but are not very experienced riders,” Merriwether said. “The policy allows the command to see a rider’s exact proficiency on the motorcycle and then provides that all-important mentorship and knowledge.”
Motorcycle riding is inherently riskier than driving an automobile. Riders have no vehicle protective structure surrounding them, and are less visible to other motorists, so they must maintain awareness of other drivers, obstacles and potential escape paths to help mitigate that risk.
Maj. Chris Horton, the 4th Infantry Division motorcycle mentor, has been riding for roughly two decades and recounts a harrowing experience that occurred early in his riding days.
“I thought I was an experienced rider,” he said. “And after taking a basic rider course, I thought I knew everything I needed to know. I was as confident as I could be … then I had an accident.”
Horton’s description of the incident indicates it could have happened to any rider.
“A vehicle stopped suddenly in front of me,” he said. “I swerved to avoid it, but I ended up driving down into a roadside ditch, where my foot peg caught the side of the hill. I was able to repair the bike, but I injured my shoulder pretty badly and ended up needing surgery to repair it years later.”
In the rider courses at Fort Carson, mentors and instructors teach the best techniques for swerving, something Horton said would have helped him avoid his accident. Mentors also teach braking technique, obstacle avoidance, counter steering and finding escape paths.
“From the time a rider notices a hazard, it takes four seconds for him or her to execute a maneuver,” Horton said. “Executing a maneuver is a skill, and these are skills that can be learned and practiced.”
Skill development is a key part of the mentorship program. That’s why the new Fort Carson policy also requires riders to complete mandatory progressive training.
“We have two advanced courses at Fort Carson, the Basic Rider Course II and the Advanced Sportbike Course,” Horton said. “Required courses can be taken on or off post, but keep in mind that Fort Carson motorcycle training courses are provided to active duty military members at no cost to the service member.”
Early this week, several riders completed the Basic Rider Course at the Fort Carson Motorcycle Training Range on the post’s north side, near the railhead. Horton was on hand to mentor and teach along with other instructors.
Sgt. 1st Class Garret Pool, senior targeting NCO, Division Artillery, 4th Inf. Div., said he purchased a new bike in the last year and picked up motorcycle riding at the urging of friends.
“This has been helpful, even just the familiarization part,” he said. “I’ve learned some important new techniques, and I learned some things I already knew, but was performing sloppy. I’m not as proficient as I’d like to be, but I’m getting more familiar. We’re practicing things I’ve never thought about before, and I can see how they’ll be useful on the road. It’s obvious these instructors are extremely knowledgeable.”
Fort Carson motorcycle licenses are valid for five years. Riders can find more information about the new policy, reporting procedures, licensure and training requirements from their unit motorcycle mentor.