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Military biker clubs: brotherhood & mentorship

Jul. 8, 2014 - 11:53AM   |  
Hundreds of thousands of bikers descend on downtown Sturgis, S.D., each August for the annual Sturgis Rally gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts. This year's rally is scheduled for Aug. 5-11, and anyone can attend.
Hundreds of thousands of bikers descend on downtown Sturgis, S.D., each August for the annual Sturgis Rally gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts. This year's rally is scheduled for Aug. 5-11, and anyone can attend. (Steve McEnroe/ / The Associated Press)
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Rally up

Major bike rallies through the rest of this year:
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
Sturgis, South Dakota
Aug. 4-10
The Veterans Rally
Cripple Creek, Colorado
Aug. 15-17
Milwaukee Harley-Davidson Rally
Aug. 29-Sept. 1
Delmarva Bike Week
Ocean City, Maryland
Sept. 11-14
Colorado Motorcycle Expo
Sept. 19-21
Bike, Blues and BBQ
Fayetteville, Arkansas
Sept. 24-27
Las Vegas Bike Fest
Las Vegas
Oct. 2-5
Beach Street Biketoberfest
Daytona, Florida
Oct. 16-19
Lone Star Motorcycle Rally
Galveston, Texas
Nov. 6-10

Back in the late 1990s, Adam F. Buehler figured there had to be an alternative to the off-base biker clubs — some questionable — for military riders to gather for road trips, share tips and provide a voice to help local commanders shape regs for the road.

But there wasn’t. At least not at McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey, where he was stationed as a young staff sergeant.

So Buehler started his own.

Inspired by the law enforcement community’s Blue Knights biker club and the firefighters’ Red Knights, he dubbed his group the Green Knights.

Fifteen years later, Buehler is the Emergency Operations Center chief for Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, and his nonprofit Green Knights Military Motorcycle Club has grown to 123 chapters — across the U.S. and overseas — with an active membership of around 15,000. It’s open to all current and former military members.

“It’s still all about unity and getting folks together,” he says.

As the group has expanded, though, he’s realized how valuable a wider brotherhood of fellow bikers can be for an ever-mobile military population.

Whether someone is arriving to a new duty station or just passing through on a summer road trip, “the local chapters can be a wonderful resource for helping people know where to go, the places to avoid, what shops are good, where to eat, where to stay — and someone to turn to for help if you’re in trouble. It’s becoming a real network.”

Just a few weeks ago, a New Jersey Green Knight broke down during a trip to the D.C. area. Within a few hours, help was mobilized to haul his bike back home for repairs.

“And that kind of thing happens all the time,” Buehler says.

It’s a model that works well, says the Green Knights’ most senior member, Gen. Philip Breedlove, the top commander of NATO and U.S. Forces in Europe.

“Any ride with the Green Knights is a good one,” Breedlove tells OFFduty. More importantly, he says he’s convinced that the Knights and its grassroots mentorship program have saved the lives of more than few new military riders.

Meanwhile, similar military motorcycle groups are finding traction as well.

The Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, for example, has 300 hundred chapters in all 50 states.

Leaders are deliberate about calling their group an “association” and not a club in an attempt to distance themselves from other motorcycle clubs — or MCs — that often aggressively recruit new members and in the worst cases have links to organized crime.■

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