By Sharna Johnson: Freedom New Mexico
Straddling her black 2005 Triumph with the visor of her full-face helmet flipped up, Senior Airman Bobbie Tenney tightened the strap under her chin. Checking the zippers on her two-tone leather jacket, she slipped leather gloves onto her hands, adjusting the fit.
Tenney’s routine is the model of the Air Force motorcycle safety regimen and, like dozens before her, she learned much of it from fellow Cannon Air Force Base bikers.
In an effort to increase and cultivate safe riding practice, the 27th Special Operations Wing Riders’ Group was born as part of an Air Force initiative, according to Master Sgt. Glen Pugh, who oversees the group.
“We were losing too many (Air Force) people to motorcycle accidents,” he said.
Between 1999 and 2003, 72 Air Force members were killed in motorcycle accidents, according to Air Force Times.
Tenney said though she grew up around motorcycles, she has been riding for less than a year.
“It’s something to do, something to pass the time,” she said.
The information and skills she gained from the safety course and through the riders group have been invaluable, she said.
In 2004, the Air Force chief of staff called for the mentoring program out of concern over motorcycle related deaths among airmen, according to Air Force Times.
Each Air Force installation has instituted the mentoring program with variations on how it’s run, Pugh said.
Cannon’s program serves as an information sharing network and fellowship outlet for around 150 Cannon bikers, Pugh said.
Under Air Force rules, all active duty members who choose to ride and all civilians who ride on base are required to complete a motorcycle safety course.
Pugh said he maintains an e-mail list of all riders on base, letting riders know about new regulations, different types of safety gear, tips, event schedules and items of interest.
A rider himself for about 10 years, Pugh said making sure riders understand everything from the basics of how their bike works to safe riding is critical and gives them a foundation to build on for a safe and fun riding experience.
As one of three motorcycle safety instructors in Clovis, Pugh said he has taught riders age 13 to 72.
“I use it every day,” Maj. Ryan Rowe said of the lessons and skills he learned in the class. “Search, evaluate, execute … It’s not about accident survival, it’s about accident avoidance.”
The bottom line is to enjoy riding safely.
Tenney said she also enjoys knowing there is a group she can share riding with. “It’s so much better to ride with people than ride alone.”