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MARSOC Marines will train on dirt bikes

Mar. 3, 2012 - 10:36AM   |   Last Updated: Mar. 3, 2012 - 10:36AM  |  
The Corps is putting 56 special operators through a dirt bike training program for an upcoming deployment where they may ride a motorcycles such as this one made by KTM.
The Corps is putting 56 special operators through a dirt bike training program for an upcoming deployment where they may ride a motorcycles such as this one made by KTM. (KTM)
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Small teams of special operations Marines will learn to ride and repair off-road motorcycles before deploying to Afghanistan.

The dirt bike training program involves a mix of personnel from Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. Units participate as their missions dictate. It is considered highly sensitive, and MARSOC officials declined to say much about it.

However, a February contract solicitation from 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., details aspects of the curriculum and suggests these riding skills will be needed during an upcoming company-level deployment to an unspecified region in the Afghan mountains. The battalion wants 56 Marines — 14 at a time — to complete a five-day program before the end of April, according to the solicitation. Part of each course will require Marines to ride while wearing up to 50 pounds of combat gear.

In all, this training will encompass three phases:

Basic off-road riding. Over two days, instructors will show Marines how to ride seated and standing, uphill, downhill, and over rocks and logs. MARSOC wants narrow mountain trails littered with rocks, tree roots, washouts and other obstacles.

Single-track riding. The next two days will build on those basic skills, focusing on "tight obstacles" and "more aggressive terrain," the solicitation says. Marines will learn to safely handle their bikes on steep inclines and declines, and while crossing rivers and making U-turns.

Hands-on mechanics. Marines will learn to fix a flat tire, clean the bike's air filter, change its oil and troubleshoot sudden engine failure and other problems that can arise.

MARSOC would not discuss what types of bike it uses. However, the solicitation calls for the contractor to supply motorcycles with engines measuring 250 cubic centimeters, and includes multiple references to motorcycle maker KTM, which markets three classes of off-road bikes that size.

KTM is "the Ferrari of the off-road world," said Tom Moen, a spokesman for the company. It has no direct contracts with the military, but its bikes are lightweight and quiet — ideal for spec ops, he said.

A spokesman for U.S. Special Operations Command, Ken McGraw, said SOCOM's individual components choose the motorcycles they want and purchase them on their own or via SOCOM's contracting office.

Tactical Solutions International, Inc., of Crowheart, Wyo., intends to vie for 2nd MSOB's training contract, said Brian Bewley, the company's president. TSI has taught troops to use four-wheel ATVs but not two-wheeled motorcycles. Its facility, he said, features "hellacious terrain."

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