Story by SN Marissa Bacon on 07/02/2019More than 30 Sailors assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) gathered at Bayside Harley-Davidson to participate in the ship's 2019 command motorcycle safety ride, June 20.
The annual event is held to promote motorcycle safety and awareness both on and off the road, while also inspiring lasting comradery among the riders. The 200-mile round trip ride ended in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, at the Wright Brothers National Memorial.
Ford's Motorcycle Safety Coordinator, Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handing) Carson Fontenot, from Franklin, Louisiana, has 13 years of riding experience along with a passion for safety that makes him a suitable mentor for more junior riders.
Fontenot said his goal as coordinator is to maintain the command's motorcycle safety program and ensure that all personnel are staying within DOD guidelines when it comes to motorcycle safety and command rides.
"The rides inspire safety, from the starting operational risk management brief, to things observed and briefed at every pit-stop along the way," said Fontenot. "This includes safety stand down briefs, scheduled Motorcycle Safety Foundation courses and command motorcycle events."
Even with these guidelines in place, riding a motorcycle can be an inherently dangerous activity, which makes it crucial for all hands to wear the proper personal protective equipment and complete the appropriate trainings. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 5,172 motorcycle related fatalities in 2017.
Interior Communications Electrician 2nd Class Henrique Soares, from Providence, Rhode Island, has been riding for over 25 years and has learned a lot of valuable lessons along the way.
Soares was side swiped by a car at an intersection in Virginia Beach. The accident left his bike totaled, but thanks to his proper riding gear, he walked away from the wreck in one piece.
"We as motorcyclists have almost no protection from accidents, except for what we wear," said Soares. "It's so important to always be wearing all of the proper gear anytime you're riding your bike to give you the biggest odds of survival if the worst case does happen."
Senior riders can use their hard-learned lessons to educate and inform riders with less experience, allowing them to learn from their mistakes and avoid preventable accidents.
"Don't try to ride outside of your comfort zone, and don't ride outside of your capabilities," said Soares. "Treat your motorcycle with respect and do everything you can to mitigate the risk by doing daily and weekly checks on your bike."
Along with agreeing that gear is an important aspect of a successful ride, Fontenot offers some advice to anyone who rides a motorcycle, regardless of level of experience.
"It's important to practice good motorcycle safety so you can arrive alive and safe," said Fontenot. "It also sets the standard for new riders to follow. Remember, every person is vital to mission accomplishment and should always practice motorcycle safety and preach it as well."
Gerald R. Ford is a first-in-class aircraft carrier and the first new aircraft carrier designed in more than 40 years. Ford is currently undergoing its post-shakedown availability at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding.
For more news from USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), visit www.dvidshub.net/unit/CVN78 or www.facebook.com/USSGeraldRFord