CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawaii --
U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific initiated its first meeting of the newly formed “Ride Safe Club” here August 1.
As a result to the increasing number of deaths in the Corps due to motorcycles within the last year, MARFORPAC initiated the club to alert cyclists of potential hazards riders can face on the roads.
“The Marine Corps cares about its war fighters and cannot afford to lose anymore Marines,” said Col. Cosmas R. Spofford, Headquarters and Service Battalion’s commanding officer, MARFORPAC. “In line with the guidance from the the Commandant of the Marine Corps’ white letter 02-08, Marine Corps Order 5100.19F and Marine Corps Base Hawaii Order 5100.22, we are initiating (the) “Ride Safe Club.”
In the past year there have been 19 Marine fatalities due to motorcycle accidents. To prevent more fatalities, Chief Warrant Officer-3 Ronald Granneman, chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense officer in charge and Sgt. Robert Manion, training's nuclear, biological and chemical defense chief, founded the MARFORPAC "Ride Safe Program."
“We needed something at MARFORPAC because nothing was instilled,” Granneman said. "The program is designed to mentor younger Marines and empower noncommissioned officers to give guidance.”
As more than 20 riders rolled up on a variety bikes to participate in the ride at Building 600 here, Manion welcomed the group and explained the current situation of the new orders and the means of the club.
“Certain Marines don’t want to go through the trouble of getting base stickers so they keep their bikes in a garage out in town and because of that they can’t come on base to get the training,” Manion said.
He further explained the free training for motorcycle riders and the courses that are available to anyone who wants to participate.
“There’s some really legitimate training coming to every rider that will be very helpful,” Manion said. “There’s a basic course and there’s also advance courses coming down the pipe as well.”
Manion also stressed the safety and awareness of every rider in the group.
“Be aware whether you’re going down to the store or on a long ride like this, every time you get on that bike a small mistake can be life threatening,” Manion said. “If we save one Marine, that’s a lot.’
As the meeting continued, Manion went over the formations the riders would take during the ride, from straight lanes into curves, as well as hand signals to communicate with the other riders. He also covered proper personal protective equipment for the ride.
The wearing of proper PPE has been an ongoing issue for Marine cyclists in the past.
Granneman said the club will touch on PPE, riding skills, safety, maintenance, and increase situational awareness for riders.
Soon enough the bikes were rumbling down the road on their first ride.
Separating into two groups, the sports bikes took a path past Hanauma Bay and around to the Pali Highway as the Harleys and cruisers took a mirrored path.
During the ride, both groups stopped for short intermissions to discuss the ride’s progress and any issues that might have come up.
Meeting half way at Bellows Air Force Station, the group stopped for lunch before continuing the final stretch of their ride.
Meeting back at their starting point, the group had a final discussion on any issues or complications for future rides.
“The club is all about sharing issues and sharing experiences,” Granneman said. “It’s a place where everyone can learn from each other.”
A leadership system has been set in place to oversee the club, but has yet to be fully established.
Granneman said the noncommissioned officers will be in charge, but hopes to create a council of governing bodies starting with a president and down the line to treasurer.
“Having a club will give the motorcyclists and MARFORPAC a voice and any amount of leadership can come out of any of the riders at any time,” Granneman said. “It’s more of an ownership to see it grow and foster into the riders’ skills and is going to benefit the riders because it’s going to be their club.”
Granneman said the club plans to take away from the stigma of taking away proper PPE and talking to Headquarters Marine Corps about updating the gear to more efficient and suitable standards.
Granneman also attributed the core knowledge of riding and safety to the riders.
As a part of the safety planning process the club has optioned to send two members through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation to get certified.
Granneman said a person can take any sport and there’s an element of danger, but the club will work in a controlled environment to promote safety and knowledge for the riders.
“I think we can make novice riders into better riders as well as the seniors.” Granneman said. “It’s about the camaraderie and we entice the seniors to become more involved with the junior Marines.”
Another key element the club plans to promote is situational awareness.
“Situational awareness is pertinent,” Granneman said. “Road conditions will change daily.”
Granneman stressed that riders should ride to their ability, avoiding riding fast in traffic because it’s only putting the rider and others in danger.
He also said it’s safer to have a number of smaller groups.
“During group rides you’ll make mistakes, but we’re only human,” Granneman said. “The more you ride, the more we can correct those mistakes.”
Granneman said he was pleased with the outcome of the first ride and he encourages riders and non-riders to participate in the meetings.
"The first ride was a great day and I got a lot of positive feedback from the riders," Granneman said. “I truly want to see this turn into a large group of riders who meet twice a month and I encourage people who don’t ride to come out and be involved and talk to Marines who ride.”
Granneman said he hopes the club will grow and wants to make this a fun, stress-free environment for everyone and entice more riders to join.
He also hopes the club becomes a stable and ongoing program at MARFORPAC.
“The more we can get into the club and ride, the more riders will learn and we’ll have safer bike riders,” Granneman said. “The more seniors can promote the program the better.”
The club plans to meet twice a month. The first meeting will be two weeks prior to a ride, to oversee the routes that will be taken and observe any issues, and the second meeting is planned to be the group ride.
There are no stipulations on bikes or individuals. The club is open to all motor vehicles with two wheels and all-terrain vehicles. For more information on the "Ride Safe Club," please contact Granneman at 477-8674 or Manion at 477-8355.
“We want you in the club and we want you on base,” Granneman said.