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Dirt track becomes dust in the wind

Date Posted: 2005-07-15

URUMA CITY, OKINAWA, Japan – Engines screamed, hearts pounded and knuckles grew white as motorbikes ripped their way around the quarter-mile dirt track and became airborne at every chance.

More than fifty riders and spectators met at the dirt track for a farewell gathering July 9. However, the farewell wasn’t for a person; it was for Enobi Motor Cross Track.

The track is closing to make room for a golf course clubhouse July 28, explained Staff Sgt. George C. Smith, motorcycle safety officer, 3rd Transportation Support Battalion, 3rd Force Service Support Group.

Service members and locals gathered at the track with their families and friends to ride their dirt bikes and spend quality time with each other just as they have been doing every fair-weathered weekend, explained Master Sgt. Jerry A. Widner, the current operations chief, Headquarters and Services Company, 3rd TSB, 3rd FSSG.

The riders that come to the track range from privates first class to colonels and novice riders to professional racers.

“This is the third track to close on Okinawa in the last 10 years,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Eddie L. Riggs, a fuel specialist with 18th Logistical Readiness Squadron, 18th Mission Support Group, 18th Wing.

According to Riggs, a track in Higashi that the riders called “Family Land” closed last year, and another two closed on the east side of the island.

Many of the riders don’t understand why they don’t get more support for what they consider to be a relatively safe family recreational activity.

According to Widner, the service members and locals won’t have a track to go to in the near future.
The sport builds strong friendships in the community, and the danger is minimized through careful precautions, according to Lance Cpl. Robert S. Elsenpeter, an embark specialist with Headquarters and Support Company, 3rd TSB, 3rd FSSG.

“Coming out here brings the families closer and gives the kids something to do other than hang out around base,” said Elsenpeter. “Riding out here builds strong bonds and ties between service members and nationals alike.”

All of the off-road enthusiast here practice proactive safety habits, like wearing proper protective equipment before getting on the track, said Smith.

“We are sticklers on the rules out here,” said Smith. “It is most definitely safety first.”

“We look out for each others kids as if they were our own,” said Gunnery Sgt. Dave L. Mulder, maintenance controller, Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, Marine Air Group, 1st Marine Air Wing. “Out here we are all in the same family.”

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