201009-A-LS252-008.jpegParticipants of the Lightning Rodeo line up to start their check ride as part of the Motorcycle Mentorship Program, Oct. 9. Photo by Josie Carlson

By Josie Carlson                                                                                                                                                                                                  Fort Jackson Leader

Soldiers are used to receiving a safety brief prior to a long weekend – don’t drink and drive, look out for your buddies, have a plan, etc. On Oct. 9, Soldiers of 165th Infantry Brigade kicked off their long weekend by talking motorcycle safety.

Motorcycles lined the parking lot of the Floyd D. Spence Army Reserve Center as Soldiers came together to participate in the Motorcycle Mentorship Program.

According to the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center, historically, roughly 30 Soldiers die each year as a result of motorcycle mishaps, and more than half of all Army motorcycle fatalities are the result of single-vehicle mishaps involving indiscipline (primarily excessive speed, reckless riding, improper personal protective equipment and alcohol). The MMP was introduced to curb a sharp rise in motorcycle fatalities and develop an informal way for experienced riders to partner with inexperienced riders.

Col. Eric Flesch, 165th Infantry Brigade commander, spoke at the opening of the event and said being safe comes from repetition.

“We know that safety comes from time and experience,” he said. “It pains me a little bit to say we stole this from the Marine Corps. They started the motorcycle mentorship program prior to the global war on terrorism and we adopted it after that when we had way too many troopers coming home with a lot of extra money. If I’m not going to buy a new car might as well buy a new bike right? And they’ve never been on a bike before in their life and it had catastrophic effects across the force.”

Maj. Daniel Jimenez said the event was “focused on safety then also a little bit of camaraderie.”

“We have all the members in our team who ride motorcycles make sure we’re combined with a T-CLOCK for the National Highway Safety Association compliance and then a nice ride,” Jimenez said. “It’s just a good way to make sure we’re all taking care of each other.”

The T-CLOCK inspection checklist was devised by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation for inspecting your motorcycle to make sure there aren’t any equipment or mechanical hazards. T-CLOCK stands for tires and wheels, controls, lights and electrics, oil and fluids, chassis, and kickstand.

The assembled group was broken up by battalions and less-seasoned riders gave a class on T-CLOCK inspections to the rest of the group. More seasoned riders watched and gave input so everyone walked away feeling more comfortable with the process. The event also included food trucks, music, corn hole, and trophies for those who received the most votes for best cruiser, best street bike, and loudest pipes, to name a few. There was also a slow-ride competition, challenging riders’ control at a slow speed.

After all the inspections were completed and all the trophies handed out, all the participants who brought their motorcycles staged in the parking lot to take off on their check ride. Almost two dozen motorcycles roared out of the parking lot, safely staggered, and onto Fort Jackson streets.