Photo Information

Staff Sgt. Andrew Eichelberger, motorcycle instructor with 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance, instructs during the Riders’ Essential Skills Training aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., March 9-16, 2015. The program is being methodically developed to dramatically reduce motorcycle accidents and, if approved, will replace all Level 2 motorcycle training.

Photo by Sgt. Scott Reel

Marines: Sacrifice for your country, not your motorcycles

24 Mar 2015 | Sgt. Scott Reel I Marine Expeditionary Force

Marines constantly look abroad to combat their enemies, but one of the most lethal lives at home. A new motorcycle program called Riders’ Essential Skills Training is being methodically developed to dramatically reduce motorcycle accidents and was tested the week of March 9 - 16, 2015, aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Master Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Devries, a fuels coordinator for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, has been riding off and on since he was 16 years old, and nearly every day for the last eight years.

“If we don’t take care of the Marines, then no one will,” Devries said. “And a lot of times the Marines won’t do it themselves, so you have to force some love on them.”

As motorcyclists say, ‘it’s not if you lay it down, it’s when you lay it down,’ but Devries humbly disagrees with not a single accident to his name.

“There’s no better interest than self-interest, and my self-preservation is pretty important to me,” Devries said, smiling. “It recalibrates you. You don’t go to the range one time in boot camp and never shoot again; you have to keep coming back.”

Gunnery Sgt. Tina Kelly, senior enlisted advisor to the Director of Commandant of Marine Corps Safety Division, and a contributor to the course, couldn’t agree more.

“As the order 5100.19F stands, Marines take Level 1 training that only teaches basic skills at 15 mph and can then get their license and ride on the highway at 65 mph,” Kelly said. “The new REST course isn’t teaching Marines how to go fast, but if they are going fast, how to stop. The focus is teaching Marines respect for the motorcycle, ensuring they know how the bike is designed to be ridden, and equipping them with the skills to corner and stop when needed.”

How to stop and turn seems like basic knowledge to an automobile operator, but the Marine Corps statistic shows that 61 percent of major motorcycle accidents were not only preventable, but a major contributory factor was not knowing how to turn or brake properly, according to the REST development team.

Sgt. Craig Chapman, a radio operator with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, has only one month of motorcycle experience and rode right next to Devries as well as other very experienced riders.

“I love my bike, and now that I’ve been to this course, I actually enjoy riding,” Chapman said.

For Chapman, a car wasn’t an option, but he didn’t have confidence riding his two-wheel transportation until he completed the REST course.

The course, if approved and implemented, will take place the day after Marines complete their Level 1 training, Kelly said. Inexperienced riders like Chapman prove seat time isn’t necessary to adequately handle the course.

Currently, riders have 120 days to complete Level 2 training after completing their Level 1 course, but many of the accidents occur during that interim time period. REST ensures Marines have the technical skills to operate safely at highway speeds, brake and maneuver through corners.

REST is designed based on the Yamaha Championship Rider’s School and targets the current Level 2 motorcycle training in the Marine Corps.

“We took motorcycle subject matter experts from every major installation as well as a group of beginners, totaling in 21 riders, to see what they thought of YCRS,” Kelly said. “From there, we took a selected few and created a working group at Quantico to develop REST; for Marines by Marines.”

The Marine Corps emphatically commits to efficiently eliminate its enemies; now a program is in development to combat the Corps’ enemy of preventable motorcycle fatalities. In order to accomplish this, REST teaches every rider to effectively use their controls at realistic speeds. REST is for any bike, any riders, any time — teaching riders to negotiate uncontrolled situations in a controlled environment.