MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Many motorcycle riders describe the freedom the of being on the road, slicing through the wind, the risk and the adrenaline as addicting. Although the Marine Corps does not dissuade members from purchasing motorcycles, it does require safety courses if they wish to ride on base. For active duty members, these requirements extend to riding off base as well.
While Marines and sailors do great things for their country while deployed overseas, it’s sad when they come home and lose their lives due to an accident on the road, said Bob Piirainen, the Combat Center’s traffic safety program manager and rider coach.
Riders are required to take two courses before being allowed to register their bikes with a Provost Marshal’s Office, as outlined in Marine Corps Order 5100.19E, the Marine Corps Traffic Safety Program. This applies to all motorcycle operators aboard a military installation, to include civilian employees and families of service members.
The Basic Riders Course is a three-day course which teaches the basics of riding and safety. After signing up for the course, riders can receive a temporary permit to drive on base to attend the course, Piirainen said.
The second required course depends on the type of motorcycle a rider owns. Those who ride cruisers must attend the Experienced Riders Course, while the Military SportBike Rider Course is required for off-roaders. These second courses must be taken within 120 days after the completion of the BRC, said Walter C. Yenkosky, a rider coach here.
The courses are geared toward riders of all experience levels, whether novice or expert. “Whether they have ever ridden before or not, we are going to make you a better rider,” said Frank Santiago, another Combat Center rider coach. “You never stop learning.” A third, optional course, the Advanced Riders Course Sport Bike Techniques, is highly beneficial to any rider seeking to improve their skills, Piirainen said. Safety is a number one concern when teaching the Marines and sailors to ride, Santiago said.
“Our goal is to change the mindset of the rider,” he said. “Change their mindset into a safe one. The biggest battle we fight is irresponsibility.” The course is located next to the Combat Center Rifle Range, an asphalted area set aside purely for motorcycle training and practicing.
This is a safe environment where anyone can learn to ride, Piirainen added. The instructors of the course said they want every Marine or sailor to successfully complete the course.
“The instructors will work with any rider on their off time,” Piirainen said. “Our goal is to help a rider be the best they can be.
Motorcycle riders have to deal with different types of hazards when they are on the road, Piirainen said. “You are more susceptible to weather [and] irresponsible drivers. This is what we fight; we don’t have air bags and protection. We rely on our skills for our protection,” he added.