Carlson's Raiders Riding Club Helps Promote Motorcycle Safety for Makin Island Sailors 
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kory D. Alsberry, USS Makin Island Public Affairs  
SAN DIEGO -- The Carlson's Raiders Riding Club, a command-sponsored motorcycle club consisting of Sailors assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), hosted a motorcycle safety and awareness ride from Naval Base San Diego to neighboring Alpine, Calif., Feb. 1.

The 63-mile event was the first scheduled ride for the club in 2013 and was organized to help promote the safe operation of motorcycles, supporting the Secretary of the Navy's focus on safety as part of the 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative.

"Statistically, most motorcycle fatalities are caused by young riders who are ignorant of or disregard Navy policy," said Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class (AW) Rollie Sturdavant, Makin Island's riding club president. "Carlson's Raiders Riding Club events are a proactive, preventative approach to entice young Sailors and all Makin Island riders into an environment that promotes safe riding habits and provides a positive mentoring and training environment."

Sturdavant said that prior to the ride, each rider conducted a pre-ride safety inspection of their motorcycle that included checking the frame, oil, lights, other controls, wheels and tires, and ensuring they had the required personal protective equipment (PPE). Required PPE for Navy motorcycle riders includes long sleeve shirts, full-length pants, boots, full-finger gloves, shatter-proof eyewear, an approved helmet and a reflective vest.

"This event is very important to the command as it raises awareness for Makin Island Sailors who ride and that they need to get on board with our safety training, camaraderie, esprit de corps, and unity in numbers," said Sturdavant. "From the time they check in, experienced riders can mentor new riders and provide a relaxed environment for practical learning."

Sturdavant said the club's name of "Carlson's Raiders Riding Club" honors Major Evans Carlson, who led Marine Raider Companies A and B, 2nd Raider Battalion on Japanese occupied Makin Island Aug. 17-18, 1942. That historic battle, along with the heroes who fought and died there, is honored with the ship's name of Makin Island.

According to Sturdavant, the club is open to all Makin Island personnel, senior leaders to junior Sailors, with all levels of riding experience. Riders of all types of motorcycles including cruisers, street and dirt bikes are welcome to join.

"We want to promote a positive, constantly growing, rider community within our command and the San Diego region," said Sturdavant. "With the margin for error on a motorcycle being so low, no one is exempt from being susceptible to injury, or death, both of which impact the ship's ability to execute the mission."

Sturdavant said more riding events and trips are being planned in 2013 for riding club members.

"Quarterly rides are a good way to refresh ourselves with the latest riding techniques, to practice what we preach in a classroom, to assess how our individual riders are doing and provide additional hands-on training for everyone," said Sturdavant. "The motorcycle community as a whole is a small group, and we need to be sure we protect one another. To continue to ride in today's Navy, we have to stay on our 'A-game' and keep up our proficiency."

The riding club, and its focus on the safe operation of motorcycles, is supported by leadership at all levels aboard Makin Island, especially the ship's safety department.

"The key element to this club and all rides is safety," said Lt. Harriet Johnson, Makin Island's safety officer. "Safe riding habits mean Sailors get to ride for many more years because they didn't hurt themselves. They are able to decompress in a constructive manner and return to work refreshed and ready to fight."

Sailors who took part in the event said they enjoyed the opportunity to ride with other shipmates.

"The ride gave us a chance to get together with other riders on the ship and have fun together," said Logistics Specialist 2nd class Dustin Cummings, an avid motorcycle rider who is assigned to Makin Island's supply department. "We learned new skills and helped early riders by pointing out problems they may have had with their riding. It's important to me because I have the chance to police my shipmates and let them know if their bike is safe to ride."

The 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative consolidates a set of objectives and policies, new and existing, to maximize Sailor and Marine readiness, safety, physical fitness, inclusion, and continuum of service which builds resiliency and hones the most combat-effective force in the history of the Department of the Navy.

Makin Island recently returned from a seven-month deployment and was the first U.S. Navy ship to deploy using a hybrid-electric propulsion system. By using this unique propulsion system, the ship saved over $15 million in fuel costs and the Navy expects to see fuel cost savings of more than $250 million, over the course of the ship's lifecycle. Lessons learned during Makin Island's maiden deployment prove the Navy's commitment to energy awareness and conservation and will positively influence future ship designs for several decades.

This initiative is one of many throughout the Navy and Marine Corps that will enable the Department of the Navy to achieve the Secretary of the Navy's energy goals to improve our energy security and efficiency afloat and ashore, increase our energy independence and help lead the nation toward a clean energy economy.

The ship is currently undergoing a planned maintenance availability (PMA) at Naval Base San Diego. During this seven-month PMA period, Makin Island will receive numerous equipment upgrades, modernization, and general repairs. The PMA period will also ensure the ship will reach the full service life of at least 40 years.
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