INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --
While at most U.S. Air Force installations, service members often have personally owned vehicles as a primary form of transportation, but due to unique circumstances at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, this is not an option. Since service members are not able to ship their POV to Incirlik, the main modes of transportation are biking, walking, renting a vehicle or the most common- riding a scooter.
To ensure the safety of the individuals across the installation, the 39th Air Base Wing Safety office offers a scooter safety course. Students attending the course must provide their own scooter and Department of Transportation approved helmet, as well as wear close toed shoes. For extra precaution, it is also encouraged to wear eye protection, long sleeves and pants. Classes start at 8 a.m. and are approximately four hours long.
“Being here at Incirlik, since we don’t have the option to have our own vehicles, the two main modes of transportation is either a bicycle or a scooter,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Scott, 39th Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment craftsman and scooter safety instructor. “The scooter safety course is mirrored to mimic the motorcycle safety foundation course and it is tailored for scooters because they are smaller, lighter and more agile.”
According to U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Gene Harper, 728th Air Mobility Squadron NCO in charge of passenger service and scooter safety instructor, helmets are the most important piece of personal protective equipment when riding a scooter. Some individuals have been seen around Incirlik AB wearing a non-DOT approved helmet, or novelty helmet. By inspecting the helmets, to ensure they are DOT approved, the instructors educate each student on what the importance of a helmet is and what it does.
“The novelty helmets have an inferior Styrofoam basically, but DOT approved helmets have much more stiff and thicker foam,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. James Hohlt, 728th AMXS aerospace maintenance technician craftsman and scooter safety instructor. “The foam is designed to absorb the impact when your head hits the ground and that will stop your brain from smashing into the inside of your skull, and that is what causes concussions and other traumatic brain injuries.”
After the PPE inspection, the students learn how to perform a safety inspection on their own scooter called TCLOCKS, which stands for tires, controls, lights, oils, chassis, side stand and center stand. After looking over the scooters, ensuring that they are safe to operate, the instructors have the students begin riding their scooters while they teach them different skill and techniques.
“We do the crawl, walk, run method, [because] we see people, a lot of times, who have never ridden a scooter before. We see a lot of fear, anxiety and panic when we ask them to do certain movements,” said Harper. “We get them through going slowly, then you can see them evolve.”
Some of the techniques the students learn are, obstacle avoidance, how to negotiate corners, low speed maneuvering and emergency stop, which is really important to know if someone needs to stop their vehicle very quickly and in a safe manner. The instructors have also implemented a new portion that is not usually in the MSF course but is unique here at Incirlik AB. Riders must navigate through a mock traffic circle, as a lot of our riders have expressed that they avoid the round-a-bout because they simply don’t know how to ride through it.
“I think the biggest misconception here at Incirlik is riding time equals skill level. If you have never developed the skill [or] never learned a skill, it doesn’t matter how long you have been riding, you are not going to have that skill,” said Harper. “But, we have gotten feedback from previous students in the class that have said that they have used the techniques we have given them to help save them from either crashing into a car or avoiding someone else hitting them.”
The instructors encourage supervisors and NCOs to take the course and learn the safety methods as a way to better teach and mentor members in their units to help everyone stay safe.
“The most important thing that I want people to walk away from this course with is the basic knowledge on how the scooter is going to work, but more importantly, have them be comfortable on it and then give them the basic skills that they need to safely operate and be able to avoid hazards,” said Scott.
The 39th ABW’s courses are hosted every other Saturday, but if enough people want to take the course, the 728th AMXS will host sessions on the alternate Saturdays.
To sign up for the scooter safety course, please see the Team Incirlik Daily Announcements email, which will direct you to the Scooter Safety page on the Wing safety office’s SharePoint site. Individuals can also contact the 39th ABW Wing Safety Office at 676-SAFE (7233).