Army gives advanced motorcycle training to soldiers to curb deadly trend

Bill Maxwell
Bill Maxwell
William Hollifield
William Hollifield

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

WAHIAWA (KHNL) - The U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii is stepping in to save soldiers from dying in motorcycle accidents.

The military says they tend to happen after troops come back from war.

The Army says military motorcycle crashes are different from civilian ones, saying civilian accidents tend to involve other vehicles.

But when a soldier rides a motorcycle, numbers from the last two years show 80% of the time it's a solo-motorcycle accident.

This week's classes are designed to throw a disturbing trend off-course, one that has the U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii concerned its soldiers may die in motorcycle accidents after returning from war.

"That's been our experience since 2005. We have actually lost 16 soldiers that had recently come back from deployment, bought motorcycles and had died within months of coming back home," said Bill Maxwell, Safety Manager at Schofield Barracks.

The military isn't quite sure why, but says it's not a suicide attempt. It's more of a need for speed.

In March of 2007, video of a motorcycle made news, going more than 100 miles per hour on the H-3. The rider posted it on YouTube, indicating he was a Marine who spent time in Iraq.

"You come back from a combat situation, you're used to living on that edge. Motorcycles are some of the fastest way to get that adrenaline rush everyday," said Maxwell.

At Wheeler Army Air Field, the course is more advanced than a standard motorcycle class.

"It was for 3 days but it wasn't as near as many turns. It was a much smaller course," said 1st Lt. William Hollifield, about his beginning training course.

Experts from the California Superbike School in L.A. train soldiers through more than 500 curves in a four hour session alone.

On a basic course, students can only go up to 15 miles per hour but at Wheeler, they can go up to 50 miles per hour.

The idea is to simulate a real-life ride on roads and highways.

"You can't test yourself, your tires, or your motorcycle in a controlled environment like this on the street," said Lt. Col. Rob Howe.

And testing limits at Wheeler's motorcycle course could prove critical if faced with life-or-death on Hawaii's roads.

This is the first time the Army has offered advanced motorcycle training to its Hawaii soldiers.

Thursday is the last day of the four-day course.