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Freedom's Thunder Bike Rally on Fort Sill

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FORT SILL, Okla_ Thursday was a beautiful day for a joyride. While more than 300 Fort Sill soldiers and civilians did enjoy hitting the streets of Lawton, they were actually riding for a much bigger cause.

Thursday marked the 9th Annual Freedom's Thunder Motorcycle Rally: a ride promoting the importance of rider safety.

The army is all about safety, whether soldiers are in combat or not. Nine years ago, Post Commander Major General David Ralston saw the need for motorcycle safety awareness, as too many members of the army were dying in bike-related accidents. His goal: to teach inexperienced riders how to prevent those accidents from ever happening.

George Keck, a civilian employee on Fort Sill, has been riding for over 40 years.

"I enjoy it," Keck said. "It relaxes me, and there's nothing like getting away from everything and riding on two wheels."

A relaxing joyride can turn into tragedy, if people don't realize the importance of knowing how to ride a motorcycle. Staff Sergeant Paul Johnson said understanding the operation of the bike isn't enough. While riding, you need to scan ahead recognizing road position.

"You are smaller," Johnson said. "People don't see you. If somebody were to merge into your lane, you've got to be thinking about what you'd do before they do that."

Another piece in the puzzle of motorcycle safety is protective equipment. In a vehicle, you have airbags and seatbelts. When riding a motorcycle, you only have what you're wearing. It takes Brent Hayes a while to get geared up for a ride. He said a helmet is of utmost importance, but so are other elements.

"Impact resistant eye wear, full finger gloves, leather boots, long pants and a safety vest are important," Hayes said.

Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is required to ride on post. On top of that, soldiers and civilians have to complete safety courses to legally ride on Fort Sill.

They are strict rules, but for good reason.

"Every soldier is important to the mission," Johnson said.

Keck has one more piece of advice.

"The best thing to do on a bike is assume everyone is trying to kill you," Keck said. "That will keep you aware all of the time."

Riders started and ended their rally at Fort Sill with a couple of stops along the way, where they took a safety quiz and got a raffle ticket for each right answer.

The prizes appropriately enough were safety gear like.

 

 

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