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The military, in general, has never really been a huge supporter of soldiers owning/riding motorcycles.  Sure, they are more vulnerable than cars are, but they are not more dangerous.  To minimize accidents while on a motorcycle, you really need to learn to drive/ride defensively: plan for cars to pull out in front of you, etc. where you’d never expect them to and have a way out.

The military’s stand is evident.  At Service Academies, you’re not even allowed to touch a motorcycle until you graduate.  Once you are deemed responsible enough to ride one, you must dress yourself head-to-toe in bright orange per AFI 91-207 (ok, I’m exaggerating a little bit here, but I’m sure if the military had their absolute way, it’d be like that). The current regulation says this:

3.4.2.4. Personal Protection Equipment:

3.4.2.4.1. Head Protection. A helmet designed to meet or exceed Department of Transportation (DOT) standards, shall be worn and properly fastened under the chin. Host nation equivalent is acceptable if it meets or exceeds the DOT standard. Commanders may authorize use of tactical helmets in appropriate off-road training or operating environments after completing an ORM evaluation.

3.4.2.4.2. Eye Protection. Goggles, wrap around glasses, or a full-face shield (properly attached to helmet) designed to meet or exceed American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standard Z87.1 for impact and shatter resistance will be worn. A windshield does not constitute proper eye protection. Host nation equivalent is acceptable if it meets or exceeds ANSI Standard Z87.1 for impact and shatter resistance.

3.4.2.4.3. Protective Clothing. Wear of long sleeved shirt or jacket, long trousers, and full-fingered gloves are required. Gloves should be sturdy, non-slip type to permit a firm grip on the controls. Wear of a motorcycle jacket and pants constructed of abrasion resistant materials such as leather, Kevlar, and/or Cordura containing impact absorbing padding are strongly encouraged.

3.4.2.4.4. Foot Protection. Riders will wear sturdy over the ankle footwear that affords protection for the feet and ankles (durable athletic shoes that cover the ankles may be worn). Sandals, low quarter sneakers, and similar footwear will not be used.

3.4.2.4.5. Garment and Motorcycle Visibility. Motorcycle riders will wear a brightly colored outer upper garment during the day and a reflective upper garment during the night. Outer upper garment shall be visible and not covered. Wearing a backpack is authorized if it has brightly colored/reflective properties.

3.4.2.4.6. All on-duty riders of motorcycles and ATVs during off-road operations should also wear knee, shin guards and padded full-fingered gloves. Security patrol requirements may dictate limited compliance.

Here’s where the witch hunt starts.  I’ve been stopped at the gate because the eye protection I wear with my half-helmet doesn’t have a strap (the gate-guard told me the strap would make them “goggles”)… Come on, is a strap on my damn impact-proof Wiley-X sunglasses really going to keep me safer?  Also, you have to wear “highly-visible” clothing (which most gate-guards interpret as “bright orange only”).  So that means I could wear a white shirt and be ok.  Not so… I’ve been stopped and not let on base for that because it’s not “contrasting” enough with my white bike.  Needless to say, I’ve gotten on base anyway by riding 5 minutes down the street to the next gate.  Furthermore, I’ve been stopped for wearing Harley’s riding vest: a predominantly black vest with a large “bright” silver reflective area on it.  Apparently, the silver isn’t bright enough nor is the black/silver combo contrasting enough, according to various gate-guards.  However, if you wear the bright-orange construction vest (that, in my opinion looks kind of gay), that will get you through the gate every time!  Maybe I could throw on my bright-orange clown shoes as well (only as long as they cover my ankles though).

Now transition from my motorcycle days, back in the States, to my motorcycle-less (and a lot of other things-less) days, here overseas.

Since being deployed, the only news connection I can get to the outside world is from the military-sponsored paper Stars and Stripes (daily and for free).  I can get it online over the internet connection I have access to (to use the normal internet, I have to walk down to the MWR tent and wait in line).  I was reading the 25May07 Stars and Stripes and happened to find this interesting letter written in response to one of their motorcycle safety articles:

Stars and Stripes

This definitely brought a little humor to my day.  Now, to say that I haven’t thought the same thing sarcastically, I’d be lying because I think the current military regs regarding motorcycles (or the way they are interpreted by the gate-guards) are a little over-the-top.  They claim everything is for safety, and sarcastically (mainly to make a stupid point pro-motorcycles) I’ve said “if it’s so safe for motorcycles, then why does it not apply to other vehicles?”  But I’ve never seriously implied that it should actually happen: it’s ridiculous enough that motorcyclists have to put up with some of these stupid stipulations, it’d be even dumber if cars had to as well.

Well, apparently this guy decided to voice his thoughts in a public forum for everyone to read (that is, everyone who actually reads Stars and Stripes).  I know, it’s ridiculous.  I don’t know whether to applaud the guy’s sarcasm or to be weary of the seriousness of his suggestion.  After all, if this guy is serious, it’s people like him that initiated these over-the-top rules and witch hunts that military motorcyclists have to put up with in the first place.  And that goes along with the “mighty” reflective-belt policy on the flight line too (working on, or walking to and from your jet at night, you must wear a reflective belt – for safety purposes and shit).  Again, it made me laugh, but I hope that response letter was really wreaking with sarcasm.

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