Spring is here! And for motorcycle enthusiasts with the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, it means time to break out the bikes and ride. But there are a few things they must complete before the troopers strap on their helmets, pull on their gloves and hit the open road – proper license, training and motorcycle inspections.

To kick off the season and to ensure motorists are prepared for the warmer weather rides, the Motorcycle Mentorship Program is the first place that safety officers will start for the troopers of 1st Squadron, 17th Air Calvary Regiment, 122nd Aviation Support Battalion and 2nd Bn., 82nd Avn. Regt. (Assault).

Originally created in 2004 by the Air Force, the Motorcycle Mentorship Program was developed because they were losing too many of their Airmen to motorcycle accidents. The Army followed suit in 2006 after the reported success of the program, and have used it every year as a way to teach and mentor junior troopers and motorists.

“The Army saw the need to help troopers develop safer riding habits and decrease the number of fatalities within its units,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Hauke, 1st Sqdn., 17th Cav. Regt., 82nd CAB. “The program includes classroom training of proper riding techniques and bike inspections to ensure riders have the proper endorsements on their license and their bikes are ready for the road.”

Since the mentorship program started, the number of Soldiers seriously injured or killed in accidents has decreased and the program has gained momentum.

“From 2004 to 2010 motorcycle accidents throughout the Army were on the rise. This fiscal year we are at about nine fatalities, whereas this same time last year we were at 20 fatalities,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kevin Ryan, safety officer, 122nd ASB. “I think we are doing a great job with the mentorship program by bringing in our riders and making sure they are safe and following the right techniques.”

Following the classroom instruction and an in-depth inspection of troopers’ motorcycles, groups of bikers took off on a ride headed by safety officers and senior riders.

“We have riders who have been riding for as many as 33 years of experience all the way to those who only have three months,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Eckhardt, safety officer, 1st Sqdn., 17th Cav. Regt. “So, we match an experienced rider with a less experienced rider during the ride.”

Starting at around 9 a.m., the bikers cruised from Simmons Army Airfield through the downtown and surrounding areas with breaks in-between and a stop for lunch before returning for the day.

“We have a wealth of knowledge within our ranks,” Hauke said. “The ride is not only about the safety factor, although that is very important, it also gives us the opportunity to mentor junior riders in the form of past experiences, some do’s and don’ts that we have learned over the years.”

As summer draws closer, safety officers across the 82nd CAB plan to host a mentorship ride once a month during the warm season to reinforce the safety standards and continue to pass on the knowledge gained from experience.

“It is going to be a group progression where everybody can lean on each other and grow together,” Eckhardt said. “Our hope is that the next motorcycle accident won’t be within our group and that the troopers will continue passing their knowledge and building a stronger team.”