Motorcycle mindfulness: helping air commandos drive to arrive

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ali Stewart
  • 1st Special Operations Wing

Motorcycles can offer a thrilling experience to Airmen at the 1st Special Operations Wing, but riding them recklessly can be dangerous and life-threatening.

Unfortunately this year, the 1 SOW has lost more than one Airman to motorcycle accidents.

Riding a motorcycle requires skill, patience, and discipline. However, even experienced riders can make mistakes that can lead to serious accidents. Reckless riding such as speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, or riding under the influence of drugs or alcohol can increase the chances of an accident and result in severe injuries or death.

“The number one danger that riders face is other drivers,” said Brian Meverden, 1 SOW occupational safety manager.

Since 2018, there have been over 50 motorcycle fatalities across the U.S. Air Force.

Hurlburt Field provides many routes to help Airmen obtain refresher courses, and even familiarize new riders with their bikes.

“Motorcycle safety classes are offered on the day of your choosing,” said Staff Sgt. Kurtis Vandevender, 1 SOW occupational safety technician. “Emerald Coast Harley Davidson provides the intermediate refresher course, which you can schedule at any time. We are also working with other companies in the area, and Airmen can be reimbursed for them.”

Although the Florida panhandle offers prime weather conditions and beautiful scenery, riders must keep in mind that highway 98 is one of the deadliest roads in the country.

“Traffic is always changing, the area is growing, and it’s important to keep your skills up and sharp,” said Vandevender. “Know what you’re doing. Sometimes, if you’ve been riding for a while, you get a little lackadaisical so a refresher is good to have.”

Refresher courses are also important for our Air Commandos due to mission requirements, which include frequent deployments and temporary duty assignments.

“Depending on how long it’s been since they were in a motorcycle seat, it’s a good way to get reacquainted with your bike— and tighten up the skills they may have lost due to lack of use,” said Meverden.

One program new to the 1 SOW is a motorcycle mentorship program. The program is unit directed, and pairs up experienced riders with new riders in order to build camaraderie and promote safe riding practices.

“We recently got a mentorship process approved where units can set up a mentorship ride which will count as refresher training,” said Vandevender. “That way we can get people out riding, get more people trained, and have more visibility for the commander.”

For the 1 SOW safety office, awareness and experience regarding the safe operation of motorcycles are vital to Airmen’s safety and wellbeing.

“Pairing experienced riders who have been on the road for 10 plus years, and partnering them with a brand new Airman to transfer some of those skills and knowledge is invaluable,” said Vandevender. “We are excited to see where this new program takes us.”

The bottom line for 1 SOW Airmen interested in riding motorcycles: if they follow safety protocols provided by the 1 SOW safety office, they can enjoy the freedom of riding down the Emerald Coast while minimizing the risks involved.

More information can be found at the 1 SOW safety office by calling 884-7233.