By Reggie Jarrett
Jax Air News Editor
Motorcycles are a popular way to get around Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, but before active-duty personnel and Reservists can ride their two-wheelers on or off base they must first complete the Basic Rider Course 1 (BRC1).
The entry-level course, which meets all state requirements, is not just for beginners; experienced riders must also take the course. "I need this course to ride on base," said AOAN John Hutchinson of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 74, who has been riding motorcycles for six years.
The BRC1 is held on weekly on Mondays and Tuesdays and combines five hours of classroom instruction with 10 hours of riding instruction on a closed course. "It is a safe environment for people to get the proper training and technique for riding safely," said motorcycle safety instructor Brandon McKnight.
"Twenty years ago they did not have this."
The primary goal of the BRC1 is to provide an introduction to the fundamentals of safe, responsible motorcycle riding.
Motorcycle safety instructor Michael Kyser has lost count of the number of times information from this course saved his life.
"I am living proof that this course works," he said. "I would not be here without it."
"The basic course is a 6- or 12-person class, with one instructor for every six students," said Linda Doktor with the NAS Jacksonville Safety Office, which coordinates the classes.
Loaner bikes are available to students, as well as helmets and gloves. All anyone needs to take the class is a valid driver's license or learner's permit.
People with all levels of motorcycle skills are eligible for the course, from experienced riders to those that have never been on a motorcycle.
Kyser estimates that 75 percent of BRC students have little to no riding experience. "We tailor the training to the level of the student," he said.
"I just want to learn to ride," said retired U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Elaine Morehead. "I have driven 5-ton trucks, deuce and a half trucks, LMTVs (Light Medium Tactical Vehicles) and Humvees, but I have never ridden a motorcycle."
Morehead took the class with her husband, J.R. Williams, who said he was a little nervous about riding motorcycles, but added, "I want to do this for her."
Classroom topics for the BRC1 include basic operation, basic street strategies, basics for emergencies and special riding situations. While riding exercises include drills on starting and stopping, shifting, cornering, quick stops, negotiating curves and avoiding road hazards.
"The mental skills to keep you out of trouble are of primary importance," said Kyser, who estimates he has taught about 4,800 students since he became a full-time instructor in December 2008.
"I am always applying the mental skills," he said referring to his daily commute.
To pass the course, students must complete all course assignments, attend all sessions, pass a knowledge test and a motorcycle riding skills test. Anyone who does not pass the course can retake it as many times as needed.
In addition to the BRC1, which is geared for beginners, NAS Jacksonville also offers a BRC2 class for more experienced riders and an Advanced Rider Class (ARC). "The ARC is a 12-person class with two instructors." Doktor said. The approximate course times for BRC2 and ARC is eight hours each.
All of the riding classes are approved by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and are taught by six full-time and part-time instructors.
They are also free for military personnel, dependents, retirees and Department of Defense civilians. Although, non-military may be put on a waiting list.
AOAN Anthony Sgambati of HSM-74, who is a first-time motorcycle rider, said he enjoyed the class. "They definitely give you a lot of good information," he said.
"We have the best students in the world," said Kyser, who is retired from the United States Air Force. "I love teaching the military."
The classroom for all of the motorcycle courses is located on the second floor of the Auto Hobby Shop in building 622 on the corner of Birmingham Avenue and Jason Street with the riding course nearby.
Those interested in the motorcycle riding courses can sign up through Enterprise Safety Applications Management System (ESAMS), go to www.navymotorcyclerider.com or call Linda Doktor with the NAS Jacksonville Safety Office at 542-3082.