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A Leader's Guide to MMP

A Leader's Guide to MMP

COL. KEVIN CHRISTENSEN
Force Support Division, Force Management, Application and Support
The Joint Staff, J8
Washington, D.C.

Commanders, does the idea of having a newly arrived Soldier to your unit — one who just redeployed and bought a powerful new motorcycle — send a shiver down your spine? As leaders, we all grimace at reports of Soldiers dying in motorcycle accidents and wonder how we can help prevent the next fatality. As a former battalion commander and motorcycle mentor, I feel very strongly that engaged leaders can make a difference in preventing motorcycle accidents. I also believe an effective motorcycle mentorship program is a commander’s best tool for mitigating risks to their riders.

As a commander, your first step is to establish or adjust your MMP. To do that, you’ll need to decide up front who will be your senior mentor and what type of program you’ll want. Your senior mentor will be your special staff officer, running the program according to your guidelines. They don’t have to be the most senior rider in your unit, but they need to be someone who has earned your trust. They should be experienced riders with good safety records who are well respected by your unit’s riders. The type of bike they ride is irrelevant. What is essential is they have the time to devote themselves to the program and possess a passion for leading and training Soldiers.

There are three fundamental components to an MMP — knowledge, skills and attitude. Anything you can do to increase your riders’ capabilities in these areas will provide a corresponding reduction in risks. Your garrison commander should have an existing Motorcycle Safety Foundation program offering the MSF’s Basic and Experienced RiderCourse. As a commander, you can feel confident these courses will go a long way toward giving your riders the necessary knowledge and skills for safe riding. However, it is the motorcycle mentor’s unique role to identify and change the riders’ attitudes that lead to high-risk behaviors.

What does it take to modify a rider’s behavior? Well, the good news is the same skills that make an effective leader in your unit also makes for an effective mentor. Pairing new riders with mentors provides you and the mentor an opportunity to assess the rider’s knowledge, attitude and skills. Since you, as the commander, have to sign the new rider’s risk assessment, ask your mentor what you can do to mitigate the risk. This might mean keeping the new rider with a mentor until certain milestones are met (maybe a couple of rides under increasingly demanding conditions). Some new riders may not be happy with that, yet it might be precisely what they need. To help identify at-risk riders, here are some red flags you can look for:

  • Behavioral issues — particularly a sense of indestructibility. Soldiers who lack maturity and sound judgment when they’re not riding will likely be the same on their motorcycle. They often take unnecessary risks such as not wearing the proper personal protective equipment.
  • Acts of indiscipline. If a Soldier with a history of indiscipline shows up as the proud owner of a new motorcycle, then you probably have trouble brewing.
  • Unwillingness or resentment toward participating in MSF courses and mentorship programs. Those who push back the hardest are probably the ones who need it the most.
  • Junior (not necessarily by age, but by experience) riders trying to ride powerful machines that are well above their skill level.
  • Soldiers returning to riding after a break of several years who want to pick up where they left off. Such riders, if they ride with a group of more skilled riders, may extend themselves beyond their current abilities.

Mentor responsibilities

Your senior mentor should maintain a training folder for each of your riders for the two of you to review. I recommend each rider packet have the following items:

  • Driver license with motorcycle endorsement (check that it is valid)
  • Copy of the rider’s MSF card
  • Proof of insurance
  • Risk assessment and mitigation plan with appropriate-level commander signature
  • Copy of MSF motorcycle inspection checklist (T-CLOCS) completed by the mentor
  • A counseling that indicates riders have read and understand your policy concerning safe motorcycle operation

Understand your riders

Even if you don’t ride, you need to understand what goes on inside the heads of the motorcycle riders in your command. They’re not a homogeneous group by any measure. However, rather than grouping them by what they ride — sport bikes, cruisers, touring, etc. — group them by why they ride.

  • Those who ride to hone their skills. Your mentorship program may not be what these riders are looking for. They want more performance from their bike and more skills in their kit bag. These riders may ride on the road or on a closed track. For them, riding is a sport that you train to become better.
  • Those who ride as a means of transportation. These are your get-back-and-forth-to-work kind of riders. They may ride throughout the year and in inclement weather. When these riders take longer trips, they tend to do so by themselves or in small groups.
  • Those who ride for the social aspect of being a motorcycle rider. These riders enjoy getting out and seeing the countryside with other like-minded riders. They relish the sense of freedom that comes from riding and love feeling a part of something that is more than just two wheels and an engine.

As a commander, which group should you be concerned with? The answer, of course, is all of them. Each has their own unique risk factors that motorcycle mentors can help you mitigate. And don’t forget your dirt bike riders. You may not even know who they are since their bikes generally do not show up at the workplace.

Selling the MMP to your riders

What can you, as a commander, do to encourage your riders to participate in an MMP?

  • Establish a sense of inclusiveness — ensure your MMP is designed to benefit all of your riders. Including family members may increase participation in some groups.
  • Build an incentive program that rewards safe riders.
  • Encourage riders to buy high-quality, effective PPE and wear it.
  • Reinforce the role of your designated motorcycle mentor with subordinate leaders in your command.
  • Send out a policy letter explaining your command policies regarding participation in the MMP. Don’t over-engineer your program. Make it simple enough for your mentors to execute.
  • Team with your garrison commander. If you don’t have the right person in your unit to meet your program’s mentorship requirements, your garrison may have military or civilian riders that can help.
  • Encourage your riders to establish a club. This can be a private organization that operates on your installation. A good riding club will enhance the image of riders and serve as a good source of developing safe riding behaviors through informal coaches and mentors.
  • Don’t restrict your riders from riding unless you think their risk is so high that it can’t be mitigated through training and mentorship. Just as it is in any military unit, meaningful repetition is the key to developing skills that make both Soldiers and motorcycle riders successful.
  • Don’t pick on your sport bike riders. They may be your most highly skilled riders and are also likely to have (and wear) good PPE. Worry more about riders on machines beyond their training and skills. Focus on your riders’ attitudes and behaviors.

Bottom Line

Protecting Soldiers is commander business. Establishing an MMP with a wisely chosen mentor can help you mitigate the risks of your Soldiers who ride, whether or not you ride. However, as a rider, supporting a mentorship program allows me to do two things I already enjoy — riding motorcycles and leading Soldiers. Leaders who ensure their riders have a good mentorship program can, and will, make a big difference in saving lives in their commands.

  • 1 May 2015
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 10795
  • Comments: 0
Categories: Off-DutyPMV-2
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