Kadena Motorcycle Safety serves all riders, new to expert
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Motorcycle safety training gives free Motorcycle Safety Foundation classes to Status of Forces Agreement members in what can be a dangerous activity on any road.
Approximately 500 SOFA members on Okinawa are qualified to ride motorcycles from attending basic or advanced classes at the Kadena Air Force and Marine Corps Safety Office each year. Whether travel is by scooter or motorcycle, riding on this island requires MSF training and a valid SOFA license.
To register a motorcycle or ride one on base, active duty military members must take a safety course and maintain their certification, which can mean refresher or advanced courses every three to five years depending on their branch of service.
"As far as the military goes, this is a mandated course," said Tsutomu "Pat" Yamashiro, 18th Wing Safety Office motorcycle training instructor. "Whether you are with the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy or Army, there are instructions out there that all state the same thing for uniformed active duty members: it's mandated, and you will. It's free of charge, and you should not even be charged leave for attending."
Successfully completing a basic rider's course leads to an automatic motorcycle endorsement on SOFA driver licenses for Airmen, or after commander approval for other services. Because a SOFA member's state may have a license waiver program, this MSF training received through the Kadena Safety Office could be accepted as a state driver's license motorcycle endorsement.
"These are hands-on rider courses and we do classroom and range portion, which is an outside activity that's hands-on on the motorcycle," Yamashiro said. In the classroom, riders learn everything from risk management to safe operation, and crash avoidance skills. Riders must be able to attend every session, pass a written exam and also pass a riding skills test, he said.
Training is available through the motorcycle training center for riders of any experience level and can assist riders in building confidence in abilities and techniques to safely travel the streets of Okinawa.
"Riders can bring in their privately owned motorcycles, but we have trainer motorcycles that are also available too," Yamashiro said. The Kadena safety office has 13 trainer motorcycles on hand. "The idea about the training motorcycles is that you'll have an opportunity to get the basic rider's course training without investing yourself into buying a motorcycle," he said.
Kadena's Motorcycle Safety Office offers the basic rider's course several times a month, in addition to a monthly military sport bike rider's course and an advanced rider's course. The coaches stress the importance of continuing safety courses and organize events throughout the year to give extra experience to riders and bring safety awareness to non-riders.
"We act as advocates for motorcycle safety," said Staff Sgt. Richard Ebert, MSF rider coach. "I try to remind people that aren't riders that when you have a permanent change of duty station, one of the first things you do is a traffic safety program where they familiarize you with the area, talk about high-risk intersections, different rules and regulations for each state or overseas, different sides of the road and different signs. We all go through this training for our vehicles, and it's just as important that everyone gets this training for their motorcycles as well."
Motorcycle safety isn't just for riders. All drivers should have awareness for more vulnerable travelers, to include cyclists, pedestrians, and riders of motorcycles and scooters. Kadena has suffered the loss of several airmen to motorcycle fatalities in the last few years.
"Even if you're not riding spiritedly in the streets, Okinawa has a lot of tight roads," Ebert continued. "There's not a lot of run-off and there isn't a lot of margin for error on the street. Your skill set has to be really high in order to navigate out here well. We encourage leaders to come out and take a class and see what riding is all about and get that perspective. You can't say no to motorcycling if you don't know what it's about and what the cultures about, and what it actually takes to operate. It's a higher skill set than a four-tired vehicle."
Kadena's Motorcycle Safety Office offers several training courses throughout a typical month, and can be reached for scheduling or questions at 634-2450 or by stopping by the Motorcycle Safety Office, building 907.