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MANDATORY: Guam’s U.S. Airmen Must Wear Helmets While Motorcycling On Base – Or Off!

November 2, 2009

MANDATORY: Guam’s U.S. Airmen Must Wear Helmets While Motorcycling On Base – Or Off!

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Will Lawmakers Require Civilian Riders To Follow The Safety Regulations Already In Place For The Armed Forces And Guam Police Department?

By Jeff Marchesseault

GUAM – Helmets or no helmets? That is the question now festering somewhere between the stacks of bills awaiting consideration by lawmakers at the Guam Legislature. 

Some local riders want everyone to wear protective head gear, others don’t like the idea one bit and are preparing to fight it. But if the island’s motorcyclists or lawmakers care to know how the military is handling the issue, they’ll find it’s a moot point. If you’re enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and you want to ride on island, you must wear a helmet while riding a motorcylce. Period.

“Anything to save a life,” Master Sgt. Oyer told Guam News Factor today. When asked how long the rule has been in place, he replied, “I believe since 1998.”

But Guam law does not yet require motorcyclists, scooter riders or moped riders to wear helmets. But that could soon change if new legislation is passed.

After being introduced by Senators BJ Cruz and Tina Muna Barnes on September 3rd, Bill 225-30, Guam’s proposed helmet law, was sent to the Committee on Public Safety, Law Enforcement, and Senior Citizens the very next day and was set for hearing a month later.

But the bill is not on the current session’s agenda. Guam News Factor attempted to reach Cruz and Barnes at their offices today to find out the status of the bill, but there was no answer at either of the lines we called. Today is All Souls Day, a Catholic holiday. Many schools and offices are closed. Guam News Factor will follow up with both senators for a progress report on their pending legislation and to get their thoughts on a new motorcycle safety program just announced by top brass at Andersen Air Force Base.

Safety is at the heart of Guam’s motorcycle helmet legislation. And safety is the reason Andersen Air Force Base is now hosting a Motorcycle Mentorship Program. According to a recent news release from Andersen, last week the base’s motorcyclists were called to a mandatory annual safety meeting, where they learned about the new program.

Master Sgt. Oyer told GNF some of the tips he passed along to airman-riders at that meeting.

Referring to the “equipment”, or motorcycle, that an airman rides, Oyer said he or she should “know it, be familiar with it and respect it.”

He also advised riders to “always appear bigger than normal on the road. When you appear bigger on the road, people tend to see you. Make sure your lights are operational and cleaned. Wear colors that are contrasting to your environment. At nighttime, wear reflective gear,” he cautioned.

However Guam’s civilian motorcyclists may feel about wearing helmets — and whether or not lawmakers enact a mandatory helmet law for them — it’s hard to argue with the logic of the 36th Wing’s safety tips. They seem to be in line with safety rules in place for the Guam Police Department’s motorcycle fleet. GPD riders are trained by a federally trained instructor. Althought the program is administered and funded locally, the instructor’s training is paid for by federal funds. And the strictures of federal funding usually err on the side of safety. When’s the last time you saw a mounted police officer not wearing a helmet?

Here is the news report on Andersen AFB’s mandatory safety meeting for motorcyclists:

36th Wing Debuts Motorcycle Mentorship Program During All-Call

By Senior Airman Shane Dunaway, 36th Wing Public Affairs

10/29/2009 – ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam — Senior leaders from the 36th Wing held an all-call at the base theater Oct. 26 for Team Andersen’s motorcycle operators.

RuhlmanHelmet

The all-call was part of an annual safety requirement for riders, but the mandatory briefing gave leaders an opportunity to showcase the new Motorcycle Mentorship Program implemented by the 36th Wing safety office under the direction of Brig. Gen. Phil Ruhlman, 36th WG commander.

According to Lt. Col. Bill Heaster, 36th WG safety office, the ultimate goal for the all-call and the mentorship program is to ensure the riders are aware of safety procedures, including all Air Force regulations and supplements, and know the proper equipment and training required to ride a motorcycle.

The program provides experienced riders off all ranks an opportunity to share “war stories” and scenarios they’ve encountered to novice riders, enabling motorcycle riders to police their own.

Staff Sgt. John Ware, 36th Civil Engineer Squadron engineering assistant and motorcycle rider for more than 15 years, volunteered to be one of 35 mentors on base in order to provide his expertise to new riders and keep the program from being a mandatory morale issue where riders would receive directed training from non-riders.

For more information on the program or to volunteer to become a motorcycle mentor, contact the 36th WG safety office at 366-7233.

Read the Guam News Factor story, “Guam Motorists Disagree On Helmet Bill”, September 29, 2009.

Read the Guam News Factor story, “Guam Helmet Law Could Lead To Improved Federal Assistance”, September 29, 2009.

Click here to read Bill No. 225-30, relative to mandatory Motorcycle Safety Helmets at the Guam Legislature website.

Read the Guam News Factor story, “Guam’s New Biker Cops Put A Safe Edge On Traffic”, 2009.

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