By Lance Cpl. Matthew Denny
III Marine Expeditionary Force / Marine Corps Installations Pacific
"When we come into work and hear about a service member involved in an accident, it affects the esprit de corps. Whether it's a Marine, sailor, airman or soldier, it will have an effect on someone," said Senior Chief Petty Officer Jonathan S. Sotingco, hospital corpsman master chief, Medical Wing, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III MEF.
"Not only does it affect the morale of the unit, but when Marines are involved in accidents it causes the workload that the injured was carrying to be [transferred] onto another Marine who already has tasks and missions to complete," said 1st Sgt. Ingo Rasch, company first sergeant, Company B, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III MEF. "It degrades the ability to finish the mission in both short term and long term."
"I was just a young lance corporal when my roommate was killed in a senseless motorcycle accident in Swansboro, N.C.," said Sgt. Maj. Timothius Robinson, sergeant major for Marine Cors Air Station Futenma, Marine Corps Bases Japan. "If you do not wear the proper PPE, it can't protect you."
Marine Corps Order 5100.19E states that all Marines who wish to ride motorcycles or ATVs must wear proper protective equipment: helmet, gloves, eye protection, long sleeves, long trousers and over-ankle footwear. In addition, those who wish to purchase a motorcycle on Okinawa must attend the Basic Riders Course available on military installations.
Before a service member purchases a motorcycle they must sign up for the Basic Riders Course at their S-3 within their command, said Paul Green, a riding instructor with Cape Fox Professional Services at the Traffic & Recreational Off-Duty Safety Program on Kadena Air Base. An S-3 representative will then send a recommendation and referral through the Marine's chain of command. If approved, it will be sent to the Traffic & Recreational Off-Duty Safety Program on Kadena Air Base, Green added.
"Would you go out and fly a plane without knowing how to operate it, or have had the proper training?" Green asked. "Why would someone ride an ATV or motorcycle without being trained first?"
"Wearing the proper protective equipment while riding greatly enhances your ability to be able to do your job the next day," stated Rasch. "In combat, you would not hear or see Marines go out of the compound without their [helmet] or flak jacket. So how does it make sense to get on a motorcycle without a helmet or PPE."
Rasch also said there are some considerations Marines should think about when returning home from deployments.
"The important thing for Marines to remember when returning from a deployment or those who have not been on a bike for a while is to get spun up on any new Marine Corps orders or [Marine Administrative Messages] that have been released during their time away from riding. Start off slow until you feel comfortable again and in some cases go to a refresher training course," he said.
"Marines tend to think they are untouchable, but both new riders and experienced riders should not get on thinking they're invincible, and need to ride on their level and not try anything until they become comfortable," said Rasch.
"Acquiring a motorcycle is a three part process; training, licensing and registering," said Green.
In order to purchase a bike and receive an endorsement for motorcycles in Okinawa, a service member must have a Status of Forces Agreement personally owned vehicle license.
"The Installation Safety Office on Kadena provides helmets and training motorcycles for the Basic Riders Course, but riders need to provide their own over-the-ankle shoes, long sleeve shirt, jean pants..." said Green. He also advises riders to bring some sort of rain jacket in case of inclement weather.
To learn more about riding safely or to enroll in training, contact your installation's safety office.