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Vandenberg bikers focus on safety, emergency capabilities during monthly roundtable

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- More than 60 Vandenberg Air Force Base motorcycle riders gathered at the base theatre here for a safety based cross-talk April 24.

The free-form discussion, normally held the second Tuesday of the month at the Vandenberg Education Center, focused on safety and local capabilities beneficial to base riders.

According to the Air Force Safety Center, AF motorcycle fatalities now outnumber AF automobile fatalities.

"As of April 22, there have been nine motorcycle fatalities compared to five automobile accidents this year," said Bill Stark, 30th Space Wing Pad and Missile Safety chief and motorcycle rider. "The environment out there is one that's fraught with hazards that you cannot control. The numbers that were given were just for fatalities. If you start looking at all the people that were hurt...we are going to be here a while. It's a big list."

Stark then played a motorcycle safety video that touted the merits of situational awareness while on the road, featuring a champion motorcycle road racer.

"Just as the video said, motorcycle riding requires the right skills, training and attitude," Stark said. "There are many people here that have taken advantage of local motorcycle track armature days. You're riding your motorcycles in a high performance manner so you have to have the right training. You have to go out and find the right sources of training, but it's all going to start with the right attitude."

Despite training and attitude, there are still circumstances beyond the rider's control that can cause an emergency. Vandenberg riders were briefed about a local agency that saves minutes and lives.

Tracy Shearer, a California Shock Trauma Air Rescue representative, discussed CALSTAR's mission and how it could help a motorcycle rider in need of emergency assistance near Vandenberg.

"Any accident that could happen near Vandenberg will probably require you to be transported by CALSTAR," Shearer said. "CALSTAR is the only helicopter ambulance in the area. It is becoming protocol for an air ambulance to be activated when emergency services like the ambulance, fire department, and other helping services are activated."

According to Stark, air ambulance transportation could be a matter of life and death for a rider who has been in an accident.

"We have a lot of people doing exciting things at Vandenberg," Stark said. "We have active motorcyclists, climbers, hikers and all these things are done in rural areas. It is at least 45 minutes to the nearest level three trauma center by car," Stark said. "An air ambulance allows someone who has been severely injured to get the care they need within that 'golden hour.' This is described by medical professionals as the crucial amount of time medical professionals have to get a trauma victim to necessary care to prevent irrevocable damage or death."

The roundtable convened with closing remarks from the base's wing commander, reminding Airmen to continue riding responsibly, to respect the road, and the machine.

"I couldn't be prouder of the riders here at Vandenberg," said Col. Nina Armagno, 30th Space Wing commander. "From the moment I arrived here, I noticed that motorcycle riders always have on the proper personal protective equipment, they are respectful of the road, rules of the road and always seem to be taking care of each other. That is the theme that makes a solid riding group. I encourage you to continue mentoring each other... grab a new rider and bring them under your wing. Open up your mind to be mentored by riders that have been developing their skills over the years, continue to take care of each other, respect each other, respect rules of the road and respect the bike."