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Nice day for motorcycle ride to Mount Rainier

Northwest Guardian

Published: 06:51PM June 5th, 2014

Instead of wearing the usual Army Combat Uniforms for their mission on May 30, nine members of the 84th Civil Affairs Battalion, known as the Phoenix Battalion, wore jackets, jeans and helmets for a motorcycle ride from battalion headquarters on Lewis Main to Mount Rainier.

“Operation Flight of the Phoenix Ride” is one of two annual mentorship rides the 84th CA Bn. organized as part of the U.S. Army’s Motorcycle Mentorship Program established in 2005.

“What we have are experienced riders checking on the younger, more inexperienced riders and watching so they know how to ride safely,” said Lt. Col. Dominic Kusumoto, commander of the Phoenix Battalion and a motorcycle instructor.

According to the Army’s MMP website, an average of 42 Soldiers are killed in motorcycle accidents each year. While those numbers have declined since 2011, the program continues in all battalion units.

The battalion’s motorcycle club held a safety briefing before leaving Lewis Main through the East Gate and heading south on Washington State Highway 507 toward Yelm. They rode to Mount Rainier National Park via State Highway 702, a much safer route than driving on Interstate 5.

“When we plan the route, we’re using straight roads, swervy roads and make sure they can handle their bikes in different situations,” Kusumoto said.

The group took in the sights of Mount Rainier’s Paradise and took photos on the sunny day that started the weekend. The ride allowed experienced bikers to demonstrate safe techniques and provided a chance to build camaraderie among Soldiers with bikes.

“It’s not often you have missions that go along with a passion that you may have,” said Staff Sgt. Jimmie Evans,of Bravo Company. “When you get to bring that into work, it makes you enjoy work even more.”

Sergeant Ryan Emlinger, the senior motorcycle mentor in the Phoenix Battalion, said its bike club members hope to build the unit’s MMP. After standing up last September, the small battalion is currently 100 people short of its authorized 250 service members.

Down the road, Emlinger said the members plan to invite riders from the 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade and other JBLM units. Emlinger said he supported larger Poker Run rides while stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.

“I’m hoping we get more people in and more riders, then we’ll be able to do some nice rides,” Emlinger said.