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Sport-bike safety course educates Airmen

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  • By Airman Shen-Chia Chu
  • 436th AW Public Affairs
Sport-bike riders may love the freedom of cruising down the road, but would every rider know what to do if they were suddenly side-swiped by the vehicle next to them?

"In the last 10 years, AMC has lost 30 Airmen and an additional 197 Airmen have lost their duty time due to motorcycle mishaps," said Col. Steven Harrison, 436th Airlift Wing commander. "AMC has mandated the Sport-Bike Proficiency Training program in addition to our existing motorcycle certification program to ensure the safety of our most valuable asset - our people."

This one-day course is presented in the classroom and out on the range by two Team Dover sport-bike instructors who conduct exercises to help the riders increase their knowledge and confidence to ride.

"This course will help build more confidence and enhance the ability of the rider in situations where otherwise they would not know how to handle their high performance motorcycles," said Master Sgt. Jose Ayala, 436th Aerial Port Squadron Combat Readiness & Resources flight chief and sport-bike instructor. "We're teaching them different techniques and increasing their knowledge, refining riding strategy and skill to reduce the amount of mishaps."

The class is conducted in a relaxed environment, he said. It begins with a guided discussion from each rider with regard to how long they've been riding, what kind of bike they own and the reason why they're in the class.

"This course can fill in gaps and educate Airmen about what they're getting into because most dealerships don't ask the buyers if they know anything about motorcycles," said Senior Airman William Landy, 436th Maintenance Operations Squadron crew chief instructor and sport-bike instructor.

Sergeant Ayala agrees.

"I know many Airmen throughout the base who buy a bike, but have no idea about riding," said Sergeant Ayala. "Within a week or less, they have dropped or incurred damage to the bike, but luckily they weren't injured."

While there are many reasons to own a sport-bike, the most popular answers Airmen agreed upon are economic ones such as better fuel mileage, look and feel of the vehicle and having the sense of freedom and its fast-paced speed.

"For the younger crowd, it's all about the speed," said Airman Landy. "By having this course, we're working on reducing the fatality and accident rates for Airmen because AMC has the highest sport-bike fatality rate."

The course is designed mainly to target Airmen 26 and younger, although it is mandatory for all sport-bike riders.

"Younger Airmen seem to have a mentality that they're invincible," Sergeant Ayala explained. "I thought the same also when I was a young Airman myself until I got into a very serious accident.

As a result, the sergeant broke his back and wore a metal brace for three months.
"I could have prevented my accident if I learned the importance of becoming familiar with my bike before riding," he said. "It's easy to lose control of the bike when you're unaware of its high performance."

With 15 years of riding experience, Sergeant Ayala is passing on his knowledge to save lives and prevent other riders from accidents.

"I feel this is my calling and I have to pass on what I've learned - to mentor other Airmen so they wouldn't have to go through my trial by fire," he said. "I've never been in an accident after my former first sergeant took me under his wing and taught me how to become a safe rider."

Airmen will be able to see the consequences of motorcycle accidents that may occur rather than experiencing them.

"We show the AMC sport-bike safety video to better visualize the words we're teaching," said Airman Landy. "It's more realistic to see what the consequences could look like performed by professional racers and stuntmen."

Though some riders have become seasoned over time, they may not be experienced to ride in every kind of environment or weather.

"I knew an experienced rider who was in an accident due to an environmental hazard, riding through sand," said Airman Landy. "A few of my friends were also in pretty bad motorcycle accidents. I decided to help others become aware of the dangers because being young, I can relate more to riders who feel the 'need for speed."

One important part of this course is for riders to know their sport bike by reading the owner's manual, suggests Sergeant Ayala. It is highly recommended to have an owner's manual, but it is not a requirement for the class.

"Every student who has been through this course has given us positive feedback about what they've learned," said Sergeant Ayala. "I encourage anyone thinking about buying a bike, even if you don't operate or own one, to come because you'll learn some techniques just by watching.

"It may seem intimidating, but in reality it's a lot of fun. Be a part of us - be safe and ride safe," he said.

Sport-bike training is required for all active duty Airmen who own, operate or plan to operate a sport-bike. Due to weather restrictions for this year, training will not resume until next spring.

For information about the course, call For information about the course, call Tech. Sgt. Harold Joe, 436th Airlift Wing Safety Office, at 677-4389.