Throttle back, bikers, the safety course at Yokota Air Base is here to stay

By THERON GODBOLD | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 24, 2020

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Dedicated motorcycle riders at this air base in western Tokyo can rest easy: Reports that an asphalt lot set aside as a drivers’ training course is going away are unfounded, partially.

“There is a plan to move the motorcycle course, but not anytime soon,” the base safety chief, Lt. Col. Sean Powers, said during an interview Nov. 13. “It’s not moving until the new location is prepared.”

In fact, Powers said, the Defense Department requires base commanders to provide motorcycle safety training. “It’s a mandated course,” he said.

Department of Defense Instruction 6055.04 lays out the DOD traffic safety program and requirements on subjects like motorcycle safety courses.

That’s good news to Evan Hall, president of the Green Knights motorcycle club at Yokota. The retired master sergeant, originally from Huntsville, Ala., is one of three motorcycle safety instructors on base.

Hall said he believed the rumor might be true and feared the loss of space dedicated to keeping motorcycle riders proficient in their skills.

“Yokota trains between 80-100 students a year from all branches and different bases throughout Japan,” he said. “Yokota is unique, we have this amazing range that is only 4 years old and when we are done with the courses, they [riders] can come out here and practice whenever they want.”

Powers said the move is planned to occur in one to two years and the new location for the training is the parking area of building 3003, a residential tower on the west side of Yokota not far from the existing training area. The move will free up real estate for future, unspecified projects, according to the base public affairs office.

But Hall expressed concerns. The existing pad, about 50 yards square, is available at all hours, and the idea of losing that could be bad for future riders, he said.

No interruption in the safety course’s availability is planned according to Powers and a regular schedule is expected during the transition.

Hall said the new site “would take a bit of work to make it work.”

But he and Powers agreed on one point: the lack of trained coaches for future riders needs to be remedied.

“I think one of the things we are working through right now is how do we get more coaches,” Powers asked. “This is something we are actively looking at because we can’t rely on two to three people to do the lion’s share of the work.”

Twitter: @GodboldTheron

Motorcycle safety instructor Evan Hall directs a student during a basic riders course at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Nov. 5, 2020.