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Get your motors running - Riding with Sentinels of Freedom

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Riding down U.S. Hwy. 98 on 700 pounds of motorcycle and feeling the 1,450 cubic centimeters of power, it’s easy to see the attraction that comes from cruising the road biker-style.

Fridays is when the members of the Sentinels of Freedom motorcycle club meet for the weekly lunch ride.

“We meet at The Soundside at noon Fridays,” said Tech. Sgt. S.C. “Tazz” Felde, Air Force Special Operations Command Safety Office and SOF president. “The first person there decides where we go for lunch.”

Master Sgt. Brendon Grimes, 14th Weapons Squadron, was the first to arrive at

The Soundside May 12 and he decided the club would go to a seafood restaurant on the boardwalk.
“I thought lunch on the beach would be great on this beautiful day,” said Sergeant Grimes.

As the group waited for other members to arrive for the ride, it was clear that this is more than a just a group of people meeting for lunch. These are comrades-in-arms on two wheels.

The Sentinels of Freedom was formed as a result of a Secretary of Defense mandate requiring a 50 percent reduction in motorcycle mishaps.

“At the time, there were more than 600 bikers on base,” said Guy Alexander, an Air Force retiree and one of the SOF founders. “There was a definite need for this club.”

Supported by former 16th Special Operations Wing Vice Commander Col. Raymond Kilgore and former AFSOC Commander Gen. Paul Hester, the club started gaining momentum.

SOF earned a reputation early on as the “safety nazis” because it followed Department of Defense safety gear and riding education regulations.

“We’re not the safety Nazis,” said retired Colonel Kilgore. “We operate safely but still have fun.”

DOD regulations require that Airmen riding motorcycles, on base or off, wear protective gear at all times. SOF makes sure that all their members comply with the rules.

“Most kids when riding off base don’t wear the gear,” said Lt. Col. Willie Simmons, 505th Training Squadron. “We’re here for mentorship and to encourage them to ride safely.”

Emphasis is and always will be on safety. The club hasn’t experienced a mishap in more than two years.

“If I see an Airman who is riding and not following the regulations, I’ll stop and talk to them,” said Sergeant Felde. “I just remind them that wearing the gear only shows that you care about the people you love.”

In addition to the Friday rides, the SOF meets the first and third Saturdays of the month for road trips.

“We take short trips to various locations,” said Tech. Sgt. Pelfrey. “One week, we went to Panama City, another time, Dothan, Ala.”

The Sentinels ride for other reasons as well.

Last fall, they rode in a fund-raising poker run and raised $2,000 for Brilliant Minds of Destin and the Hurricane Katrina relief fund. They’ve also ridden for Toys for Tots, collecting toys for less fortunate children.

The club also participates in the Ride For the Wall on Memorial Day weekend to the Vietnam Veterans Wall in Washington D.C.

“We’re riding for those who can’t,” said Senior Airman Eric Ledee, 16th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “We’re acknowledging those who have gone before us for all they’ve done.”

Due to deployments and exercises, the club has fewer folks riding with them on the lunch rides, but they still attract the newcomers.

Master Sgt. Joe Richardson, 16th SOW Command Section superintendent, is a long time biker but May 12 was his first lunch ride with SOF.

“I was impressed with the leadership displayed by the road captains,” said Sergeant Richardson. “Though I’ve been riding for most of my life, it never hurts to learn from someone else’s experience.”

Lt. Col. Chris Foltz, 6th Special Operations Squadron, just transferred to Hurlburt Field and heard about the club immediately.

“We’ve got several folks in the squadron who ride when they’re in town,” said Colonel Foltz. “It’s a great way to meet new people on base and to get to know the area.”

The Sentinels of Freedom has monthly meetings at 4 p.m. the first Tuesday of every month at the enlisted hooch on the soundside for those interested in learning more about the club and its members.

“We’d like to see more leadership that have bikes participate in SOF,” said Colonel Kilgore. “

For more information on the Sentinels of Freedom or to join the club, call Sergeant Felde at 884-5513 or visit their Web site at http://www. hurlburt.af.mil/basewide/sentinels/.