Learning has never been more fun; Wing safety offers mandatory ATV training course before hitting muddy trails

  • Published
  • By Airman Nora Anton
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The classroom is the Alaskan wilderness and students end their day very dirty and a little sore. 

Students are also guaranteed to leave the course with a greater knowledge of how to maneuver an all terrain vehicle safely and efficiently. 

A day-long ATV Safety Institute course—mandatory for all Icemen ATV riders—is offered by the 354th Fighter Wing safety office. Upon course completion, Icemen are certified to use ATVs not only for duty, but for recreation as well. 

“Whether you’re an aspiring all-terrain vehicle rider or seasoned ATV veteran, you are going to get a lot out of this course,” said Staff Sgt. Richard Caudill, 354th FW ground safety officer and course instructor, who has been teaching the ATV Safety Institute course here since October 2005. 

Sergeant Caudill, one of six available ATV Safety Training instructors, said the majority of ATV riders know how to “technically” ride an ATV but have never received any type of formal hands-on training. 

Air Force Instruction 91-207 requires all active-duty members using ATV’s in performance of their jobs must become certified ATV riders through the course. Eielson has more than 774 active-duty personnel annotated as ATV operators. 

“That’s a huge number of riders considering our (Eielson) population,” Sergeant Caudill said. 

Sergeant Caudill said the way most people learn how to ride an ATV is by trial and error and that the training the safety office offers provides Icemen the chance to learn to operate the machines the most “painless” way possible. 

A not-for-profit division of the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, the ATV Safety Institute courses’ primary goal is to promote the safe and responsible use of ATVs to reduce accidents and injuries resulting from improper ATV operation. 

“Most riders never really learn the physics of riding an ATV and how active a rider must be to operate the machine properly,” he said. “That’s where the safety institute’s course helps riders by providing safe operational instruction.” 

In order to devote as much individual attention to the riders as possible, Sergeant Caudill said classes consist of no more than eight riders. 

“The class is four hours of hands-on riding and instruction and it consists of 15 different exercises ranging from simple maneuvers such as proper braking to more complex exercises such as figure-eights,” Sergeant Caudill said. 

An experienced rider who has been operating ATVs for more than 20 years, Sergeant Caudill said student diversity here is immense. 

“We have riders who have been riding for several years and we also have riders who have never even sat on an ATV— so teaching can be a challenge when those two groups are mixed,” he said. 

Sergeant Caudill said the most enjoyable exercise for the students seems to be the end-of-class trail ride. 

In the hour-long ride, the students are expected to apply all the riding skills they’ve acquired during the class. 

“The ATV class provides great training and the trail ride provides a challenge not just for the inexperienced rider, but even for experienced riders too,” said Senior Airman Galen Perry, 354th Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion journeyman, one of the more experienced riders in the May 5 class. 

Sergeant Caudill said with today’s world of heightened security, the ATV has become a preferred tool for people performing installation security or whose duties require them to travel to locations not easily accessible by other modes of travel. 

“Many military installations require people to use ATVs for their duty at some point or another, so it’s important for people to be trained properly before they operate these machines,” Sergeant Caudill said. 

He explained that leadership identified that the course can reduce ATV accidents and that’s why the course is mandatory and offered to every ATV user. 

“Since safety is such a high priority, people who are using ATVs for duty or for fun can only benefit from the course,” he said. 

Sergeant Caudill said he is confident that everybody who takes the course will ride away with greater knowledge to allow safe operation of their ATV. 

“Whether riding trails for fun here at Eielson or patrolling the perimeter at a deployed location, riders are going to have a greater knowledge of their limitations on an ATV and hopefully that understanding will keep them healthy,” Sergeant Caudill said.