How Our Army Trains Its Motorcycle Specialists

This comprehensive and detailed description of the U.S. Army motorcycle training program is so interesting that it is printed in its entirety. The story, pictures and captions were furnished by the Bureau of Public Relations, Washington, D.C., and transmit

By Major Gorton V. Carruth, Photography by Holabird Ordnance Base

Motorcycle men have been referred to as the fastest-moving land branch of the Army…and the riders in certain of the combat units are armed with Thompson sub-machine guns. The motorcycle is an important motor vehicle because it is maneuverable and fast. No other vehicle compares with it for its type of service. It has its own advantages.

Students in the Motorcycle School are given their Laboratory instruction in the main shop building at Holabird. There are also three well ventilated and lighted classrooms in another building near the shop building. The main shop contains the laboratories for the Harley-Davidson and the Indian motorcycles. Forty machines are used for rider training. Sixty laboratory engines are used for close-up instruction. Each student is supplied with a basic mechanic’s tool set, to which is added a copper hammer. In addition, special tools required for the motorcycle are available in the shop supply room. Not only that, but each student has a motorcyclist’s “library” consisting of the following textbooks and manuals:

(1) Parts books for Harley-Davidson, and Indian motorcycles.

(2) Indian and Harley-Davidson maintenance manuals.

(3) Text on Principles of Internal Combustion Engines.

(4) Text on Hand Power and Precision Tools.

(5) Text on Automotive Electricity.

(6) Army text on Motorcycles.

In addition to the knowledge to be gained from reading these texts, training films are used to show graphically the subjects of instruction. Five different films are used at present. This knowledge, once acquired by the student, makes him qualified to accomplish motorcyclists’ duties anywhere in the Army. In other words, the training is standardized.

Questions are sometimes asked how soldiers get started in the Motorcycle School at Holabird. The answer is that an organization commander in the field has an allotment for so many men he can send to the School. He selects men who are qualified mechanics and who possess the aptitude for becoming motorcycle mechanics. These men are enrolled in the school in the way already described. Most of them are young men, anxious to get ratings.

The way the Motorcycle School regards a motorcycle is first, that it is not a plaything. Second, it is a piece of machinery, weighing several hundred pounds, delicately balanced on two wheels and requiring expert care and attention. Third, it requires a rider to go with it who can operate it on the principles of skill and coordination, depth of perception, equilibrium, and knowledge of proper maintenance methods.

An army rider, not trained in the fundamentals and advanced knowledge of motorcycles, is likely to find himself in tight spots at times. Safety rules are stressed in the motorcycle course, but crack-ups are always likely to happen under the best of conditions. However, the probability of them happening is reduced to a minimum by careful training procedures. The School at Holabird strives to develop confidence, not over-confidence, in the students; to teach them to ride expertly and sensibly, not recklessly; and to be both a mechanic and a rider, not just a mechanic or just a rider.

That is the program at Holabird to “develop a motorcycle mechanic, competent in the operation, maintenance, and repair of motorcycles.” With this training the way is paved for him-the finished product-to go out in the field with the Army and fulfill assignments that will lead other men in the three R’s of motorcycles: Ride, Repair, and Respect …in order to keep ‘em rolling.

By Major Gorton V. Carruth
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