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Two wheels, no box of steel

Col. Marné Deranger, 341st Missile Wing vice commander, speaks to Team Malmstrom members attending Rolling Thunder about the importance of motorcycle safety Aug. 27 at the old Base Exchange parking lot.  There are nearly 300 motorcycle riders on base and all were encouraged to attend the motorcycle safety event.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Cortney Paxton)

Col. Marné Deranger, 341st Missile Wing vice commander, speaks to Team Malmstrom members attending Rolling Thunder about the importance of motorcycle safety Aug. 27 at the old Base Exchange parking lot. There are nearly 300 motorcycle riders on base and all were encouraged to attend the motorcycle safety event. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Cortney Paxton)

Staff Sgt. Josh Leopardi, 341st Maintenance Operations Squadron missile maintenance technician, cleans his bike before the start of the bike show as Staff Sgt. Phillip Smith, 341st MOS technician, watches nearby.  Along with the bike show, the Rolling Thunder motorcycle safety event featured vendors, food cooked by Malmstrom’s Top 3, a mentorship ride and a motorcycle that held three speed records in 1989.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Cortney Paxton)

Staff Sgt. Josh Leopardi, 341st Maintenance Operations Squadron missile maintenance technician, cleans his bike before the start of the bike show as Staff Sgt. Phillip Smith, 341st MOS technician, watches nearby. Along with the bike show, the Rolling Thunder motorcycle safety event featured vendors, food cooked by Malmstrom’s Top 3, a mentorship ride and a motorcycle that held three speed records in 1989. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Cortney Paxton)

Joe Kinsey, a Montana State Trooper, shows Trevor Seals, 9, how his Taser works during the Rolling Thunder motorcycle safety event Aug. 27 at the old Base Exchange parking lot.  Kinsey attended the event to give motorcycle riders a safety brief before they headed out on a 130-mile-long mentorship ride.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Cortney Paxton)

Joe Kinsey, a Montana State Trooper, shows Trevor Seals, 9, how his Taser works during the Rolling Thunder motorcycle safety event Aug. 27 at the old Base Exchange parking lot. Kinsey attended the event to give motorcycle riders a safety brief before they headed out on a 130-mile-long mentorship ride. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Cortney Paxton)

Master Sgt. Travis Pomeroy, 341st Civil Engineer Squadron unit security manager, helps Airman 1st Class Hudson Watson, 341st Maintenance Operations Squadron member, put on drunk driving goggles before doing a parking lot driving exercise at the Rolling Thunder motorcycle safety event Aug. 27.  Team Malmstrom members with motorcycle endorsements were able to see what it was like to drive a motorcycle with the goggles while trainers and safety personnel stood nearby.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Cortney Paxton)

Master Sgt. Travis Pomeroy, 341st Civil Engineer Squadron unit security manager, helps Airman 1st Class Hudson Watson, 341st Maintenance Operations Squadron member, put on drunk driving goggles before doing a parking lot driving exercise at the Rolling Thunder motorcycle safety event Aug. 27. Team Malmstrom members with motorcycle endorsements were able to see what it was like to drive a motorcycle with the goggles while trainers and safety personnel stood nearby. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Cortney Paxton)

Brennan Stansberry, a Team Malmstrom dependent, drives off base as part of one of many 10-person groups taking part in the Rolling Thunder mentorship ride Aug. 27.  Rolling Thunder encouraged all motorcycle riders – Airmen and their dependents alike – to ride safely.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Cortney Paxton)

Brennan Stansberry, a Team Malmstrom dependent, drives off base as part of one of many 10-person groups taking part in the Rolling Thunder mentorship ride Aug. 27. Rolling Thunder encouraged all motorcycle riders – Airmen and their dependents alike – to ride safely. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Cortney Paxton)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Malmstrom Air Force Base Airmen stepped out of their boots and onto their two-wheeled summer pastime to attend the Rolling Thunder motorcycle safety event held at the old Base Exchange parking lot Aug. 27.

The event, focused on promoting the dos and don'ts of motorcycle safety, included several activities to raise motorcycle safety awareness for riders and the drivers of four-wheeled vehicles they share the roads with.

"The Rolling Thunder motorcycle safety event is just to kind of raise awareness with the base populace that we're out here on motorcycles and to keep an eye out for us and also to promote mentorship and rider safety in the motorcycle community," said Tech. Sgt. Lincoln Seals, 341st Civil Engineer Squadron fire fighter and squadron motorcycle safety representative. "If you don't ride, the goal is to understand how many of us on base actually ride motorcycles and to pay attention and avoid that 'I never saw him' phrase when someone gets into an accident on a motorcycle. For the riders, it's to promote mentorship - to get our more experienced riders to take the newer guys under their wing and teach them a little bit about proper safety equipment and that kind of [thing]."

During the day-long event, Team Malmstrom members had a chance to browse nearly 40 motorcycles entered in a bike contest, which included categories such as Best Cruiser, Best Sport Bike, People's Choice, Best Overall and a Most Potential category for bikes that may "need a little love," according to Seals.

Along with the bike show, attendees were able to visit with representatives from Big Sky Harley Davidson and the Montana Motorcycle Safety Foundation, practice exercises taken from the basic rider's course, purchase food provided by Malmstrom's Top 3 organization and participate in a mentorship ride.

"Groups [headed] out on an approximately 130-mile group ride to promote mentorship and get some of the newer riders out to have a chance to get some miles under their belt," Seals said.

"We're going to have experienced riders ... responsible for a group of riders," added Kelly Nathe, 341st Missile Wing traffic safety manager.

Riders brought bikes of all shapes and sizes to learn about the rules of the road, but there was one bike in particular that caught the eye of many who attended. Mark Volkomener brought his BMW motorcycle, which in 1989 was the fastest bike in three categories: modified partial streamline, a chassis category; and two engine categories, alternate blown gas and alternate blown fuel.

Volkomener was the crew chief for the bike when it broke the records accelerating to speeds upwards of 198 mph, and now rides the bike for leisure when the weather permits.

While no motorcycle rider should be reaching speeds of that caliber unless considered a professional, there are few who can. Obeying the posted speed limits while riding is just one small part of staying safe on two wheels.

"To be safe, [motorcycle riders on base should] follow the directives of the Department of Defense and the United States Air Force, which is getting the proper training through a motorcycle safety foundation course or a state-accredited course," Nathe said. "The DoD Instruction and the Air Force Instruction also directs that we wear high-visibility [items]. They give suggestions like neon, chartreuse and hunter orange; and not a little, wear a lot. It says that the upper outer garment will be this and that it will have reflective properties at night time."

Proper training and wearing highly visible items are only two of the many things designed to keep motorcycle riders safe on the roads; all of which were enforced on the mentorship ride during the event. Before leaving for the ride, all participants were checked to ensure they had on all proper gear and were given briefings on safety including one given by Joe Kinsey, a Montana Highway Patrol trooper.

"I'm here ... to talk about general safety practices on motorcycles and Montana law," Kinsey said. "Fatality rates in Montana are pretty high for motorcycle riders so ultimately, getting in a fatal crash would be the biggest [consequence]. As far as the legal side of it, [all offenses are] misdemeanor charges."

According to Nathe, Rolling Thunder has been an event held on Malmstrom off and on for the past 10 years, and with the conclusion of the event this past Tuesday, plans have begun for next year's event.

"Our goal is to make this an annual event - we want as much participation from the wing as possible," Seals said. "Unfortunately, I had a rider who didn't survive an accident last year, and I had a couple riders involved in major accidents and it's become very important to me to make sure this happens every year and that the awareness gets raised. My passion is motorcycles and my goal is to keep riders riding as long as we possibly can."