MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
The holiday season is one of the most dangerous times of the year for service members. Training for those who ride motorcycles in particular is very important, which is why classes like the Basic Rider’s Course teach riders aboard the Combat Center how to handle these challenges.
The course provides riders with a basic knowledge of how to handle a bike and also about the dangers of driving fatigued and intoxicated, which unfortunately many people do during the holiday season, said Frank Santiago, a Combat Center motorcycle safety instructor here and a native of La Puente, Calif.
“Roughly 50 percent of [the material in] our classes focus on the dangers of drinking and fatigued driving,” Santiago said. “Those things always happen, but we have had trouble with them during long holidays.”
Santiago said while the material is covered in the classroom, they rely more on word of mouth and units to properly educate their Marines about the dangers of impaired driving of any kind.
Santiago added the accidents that take Marines’ lives can be avoided, through education and planning.
“About eight years ago, three Marines died in a Ford Ranger coming back from the Thanksgiving holiday,” he said. “The driver was drunk and ended up killing all three of them.
“Seeing three caskets set up is tough, along with seeing and hearing their three mothers crying,” he said. “The hardest part is that it was all an easy prevention. That’s why we hammer these things so hard in safety briefs.”
Lance Cpl. Mark Cason, a rider with some experience under his belt and an aspiring coach, testified to how training can help.
“The great value of [BRC and other safety training] is knowing your limits and training yourself to pay attention,” said the Abilene, Texas, native. “Riders really benefit from the confidence that BRC gives you.”
Cason offered advice to new bikers, particularly those planning on getting out of the desert during the holidays.
“Ride smart, check the conditions before you leave and stop frequently,” he said. “Too many Marines can’t just take their time, it isn’t worth the risk just pushing through to where you’re going.”
Lance Cpl. James Phillip, a new motorcycle rider, said he’s certainly gained confidence because of the knowledge he has gained, but will take the advice of his senior riders this weekend.
“I’m certainly going to spend part of this time off we have riding,” said the Washington, D.C., native. “Nowhere crazy though. It’s pretty cold and I don’t want to run the risk of anything happening any more than I have to.”
For more safety information, the Alive at 25 course is expected to kick off following Thanksgiving.