Division West motorcyclists throttle up skills

U.S. Army/Sgt. 1st Class Gail Braymen - Division West motorcycle mentorship ride participants stop for lunch at the Horny Toad Bar and Grill in Cranfills Gap. The Horny Toad is a popular destination for motorcyclists in Central Texas. - -

By Sgt. 1st Class Gail Braymen

Division West public affairs

The Division West "Training Machine" throttled up its two-wheeled safety skills during a motorcycle mentorship ride April 15.

Motorcyclists from division headquarters and the division's three local brigades rode more than 150 miles in a loop from the unit's Fort Hood headquarters to Meridian. Riders stopped for lunch at the Horny Toad Bar and Grill in Cranfills Gap, then made their way back to post through scenic Texas countryside.

"We have these rides to critique and improve the skill levels of our soldiers," said Division West senior motorcycle mentor, Lt. Col. James Stitt II, who has more than 40 years of riding experience. "By doing this, we make them safer. The rides also help develop communications, because riders start talking about bikes and techniques. People start to share information."

The Division West motorcyclists began their mentorship ride with a safety briefing, then rode to the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen, where they joined Patriot Guard Riders in rendering honors at the funeral of an Army veteran.

"The highlight of the ride for me was the memorial," said retired Lt. Col. Jay Adams, Division West public affairs chief. "It makes you proud to be a soldier, to see the love for that veteran who didn't have family, but yet had a whole Army as a family."

Also along for the ride was retired Sgt. 1st Class Victor Hayes, husband of Division West's Staff Sgt. Deeadra Hayes, who said that when he left the Army in 2007, many military motorcyclists would get together on their own and ride as a group.

The Army's motorcycle mentorship program, which encourages organized unit rides, is a fairly recent innovation.

"I love riding motorcycles, and I love supporting the military and doing things with the military," Hayes said. "I came on the ride today to hopefully meet new people and share my experience of riding motorcycles."

Riding with a group is "a whole different ballgame" from riding alone, said Sgt. 1st Class Mario Salinas, who has been riding motorcycles for about 25 years.

"You learn to anticipate what other riders are going to do," Salinas said. "You have to depend on the guy in front of you and help the guy behind you."

Group motorcycle rides are particularly appealing to Chief Warrant Officer-3 Chip Argumaniz, a helicopter pilot who does not get to fly often in his current position as a trainer and planner with the 166th Aviation Brigade.

"When you're riding in a staggered formation, it makes you feel like you're flying again, having a wingman all the time," Argumaniz said. "It's just a good feeling. I'm no longer flying regularly, but I get to do this instead."

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