JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
The sound of thunder rolls from the tips of chromed steel horse exhausts and the noise echoes into the Carolina afternoon sky. Motorcyclists, every one dressed in faded denim, sunglasses, chains and leather, ride fast and loud through the winding freeway.
They are bikers, but their official name is the Green Knights Military Motorcycle Club, Chapter 37.
The emblem of the Green Knights, known as their 'colors', is embroidered onto the backs of their jackets. The embroidered patch consists of a medieval knight, gripping a sword while on horseback, with 'Freedom through Service' stitched above the warrior.
The Green Knights Military Motorcycle Club is a non-profit organization made up of military and Department of Defense motorcycle riders with more than 100 chapters worldwide.
"The Green Knights stand for safety," said Robert Carman, 23-year retired Air Force veteran and GKMMC Chapter 37 vice president. "We work hand in hand with the 628th Air Base Wing Safety Office and the 628th Security Forces Squadron to ensure riders follow federal, state and base regulations."
Carman spent the majority of his military career as an electronics technician, but spent his last nine months prior to retirement working traffic safety in the safety office because of his involvement with motorcycle safety in the GKMMC 37. While in active-duty status, Carman served as the president of the GKMMC 37.
"The Green Knights fight for motorcyclists' rights to ride," Carman added. "We also fight to make sure the riders stay educated on motorcycle safety."
Carman, nicknamed "Pothole" by fellow GKMMC 37 riders, knows all too well the reality of motorcycle safety. While on a ride in 2010, Carman was involved in a traffic accident that nearly claimed his life. A motorist struck Carman and drove off into the night, leaving him lying in the dark street next to a pile of broken metal. The driver's license plate was ripped from the car and entangled in the motorcycle's front finder. Police officers were able to locate the runaway driver after looking up the plate numbers.
"I don't know what happened," the driver told police, after they located him at his home. "I just remember the sound of screeching tires and seeing a bright light in my rearview mirror. I don't remember hitting anybody; I thought I ran over a pothole."
Unfortunately, Carman was the 'pothole' the man thought he ran over. Luckily, Carman was luckily able to dust himself off and walk away from the wreck with only a few bumps and bruises, and a new nickname; 'Pothole'. His brush with death fuels his drive to continue educating others on motorcycle safety.
According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, traffic deaths involving motorcyclists were on the rise in 2011 by double digits compared to 2010. This year five motorcyclists have been killed in motorcycle related traffic accidents. Common causes for the accidents include other vehicles making turns into the path of oncoming motorcyclists or failing to check their blind spots for motorcycles.
One way the GKMMC 37 wants to bring those numbers down is through mentorship rides, educating riders and promoting overall traffic safety.
"One rider injured or killed on a motorcycle is too many," said Richard Butler, GKMMC 37 Sergeant at Arms and active-duty U.S. Navy Chief petty officer. "The best way to prevent motorcycle accidents is to lead by example. We may not be the police, but we'll enforce safety rules like wearing a helmet."
Leading by example is just what the GKMMC 37 has continued doing at Joint Base Charleston. Along with the 628th Air Base Wing Traffic Safety team, the club recently helped kick off the 2012 riding season by sponsoring a two-day safety rodeo, March 23 and 24, for active-duty and civilian riders. Col. Richard McComb, Joint Base Charleston commander, attended the safety rodeo both days, taking time to speak to motorcyclists before they started their mentorship ride.
"I've never seen a commander actively promoting motorcycle safety as much as Col. McComb," said Carman. "He attended both briefings of the two-day motorcycle safety rodeo. It shows how much he cares about the safety of his Airmen, Sailors and civilians at JB Charleston."
"I appreciate the sponsorship the GKMMC 37 provided for the JB Charleston motorcycle mentorship event," said McComb. "More than 100 Airman, Sailors, and civilians benefitted from their expertise and now they are safer motorcycle riders because of their support."
The GKMMC 37 showed their appreciation toward McComb by making him an honorary member of their organization. Carman, along with Tech Sgt. Jose Gonzalez, 437th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief and GKMMC 37 president, 'knighted' McComb by presenting him a club patch for his ongoing dedication to keep Airmen, Sailors and civilians safe.
"I, of course, appreciated being 'knighted' as an honorary club member," said McComb. "Although, I'm still looking for the right jacket to sew the patch on."
"The work GKMMC does with JB Charleston is a partnership," said Gonzalez. "We're a private organization of motorcycle enthusiasts and making Col. McComb an honorary member is our way of thanking him for all his hard work and building a bridge for future motorcycle safety events. We have the same mission, to keep JB Charleston safe. "
All types of motorcycles, from heavy-duty American made cruisers to modernized exotic sport bikes, are welcome in the GKMMC. If you are a military, retired, DoD civilian, dependent or military contractor motorcycle rider and would like to learn more about joining the GKMMC, go to their official website at www.greenknightsmc.com or Facebook ID: Green Knights MMC.