Motorcycle riders from the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School took to the back roads of North Carolina to apply lessons learned in a USAJFKSWCS Motorcycle Safety and Mentorship Ride recently.

Small groups consisting of four to seven riders, ranging from experienced to novice, traveled from Fort Bragg to Company D, 1st Battalion 252nd Combined Arms Battalion, North Carolina Army National Guard, in Sanford, N.C.

Command Sgt. Maj. Marc W. Eckard, USAJFKSWCS Noncommissioned Officer Academy commandant, and 34-year veteran rider highlighted the importance of safety, as his group had to react to traffic conditions and other drivers.

“Coming off Fort Bragg and turning a corner, there was an oncoming red Ford F-150 that was half way in our lane. Fortunately we were all paying attention and were able to react with no issues,” said Eckard.

The smaller groups allowed riders to focus on the road and traffic conditions versus a mass packed, fun run with hundreds of motorcycles.

“The benefit of smaller groups is that it’s a lot easier to maneuver through traffic. It’s a lot safer if one guy does make a mistake,” Eckard said.

The route allowed riders to take lessons learned from the closed courses and apply them to the open road. The designated route highlighted riding on the highway, through city traffic, rural roads and industrial areas.

“It’s a great way to come out and show your abilities and skills. As a leader it lets all the junior guys know that I still obey all the street rules. I wear my personal protective equipment and do what I’m supposed to,” said Eckard.

Putting on the breaks and leaning into the turn, the groups stopped for lunch at the National Guard unit. This allowed new riders and mentors to discuss the route, traffic conditions and defensive driving to avoid catastrophic incidents.

Safety awards were presented to several riders following lunch. The first award presented was to one of the mentors for assisting a fellow rider.

“Today is a reward for the guys who stay up to date on their motorcycle safety training. It gives them a chance to get out of the office, it also gives them the chance to ride in groups where most of us ride individually,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Donald L. Kurtz Jr., Capabilities Development Integration Directorate, USAJFKSWCS and veteran rider of 41 years. “You get to learn how to ride a plan with more than two or three, four people in a group, use arm signals to transmit your intent to the rest of the group and others around you.”

For the less experienced riders, events like these allow them to take what they have learned on closed course training and apply them to the open road.

“A ride like this improves on the fundamentals that they learn in the basic riding course and even the experienced riding course. It hones the skills that they have learned in that training and apply it on the roadway,” Kurtz said.

Shifting gears to the second leg of the journey, riders continued to the Alston House historical site near Carthage, N.C.  Everyone was able to tour the House-in-the-Horseshoe and learn about how settlers lived during colonial times.

Not all novice riders are young; some decide to purchase a bike later in life.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jose A. Santiago, Company C, 6th Battalion, USAJFKSWCS, and a recent graduate of the basic rider’s course took this opportunity to increase his motorcycling experience.

“I was able to watch the Basic Riders Course video again and get refreshed and made sure all my paperwork was lined up and had a mentor for the ride,” said Santiago. “It’s been a great opportunity to mingle with people and see how other guy’s ride and listen to other people talk about experiences and situations that happen. The road and route was perfect, scenic, and beautiful.”

Any motorcyclist will tell you that riding brings them great pleasure and a feeling of freedom.

“The best part of today’s ride has been the camaraderie, getting out, networking, discussing technics and riding with other people who are as passionate about motorcycling as I am, getting out of the office for a little bit and have some fun,” said Kurtz.