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NEWS | April 8, 2010

Traffic safety manager wins Air Force award

By Mike Joseph 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs

The Lackland traffic safety program manager will compete against other services for a national federal employee award after being selected the 2009 Air Force winner in traffic safety and accident prevention.

Bill James, 502nd Air Base Wing Operating Location Alpha traffic safety program manager, is the AF traffic safety and accident prevention nominee for a Government Employees Insurance Company Public Service (GEICO) Award.

"I was surprised," Mr. James said. "I'd actually forgotten about it. When my boss said, 'congratulations,' I thought, 'what did I do?' It was the GEICO award."

Working in his dream job, Mr. James has parlayed a childhood love of motorcycles and riding into making a difference at Lackland through motorcycle safety. He is one of three Air Force course instructors for performance sport bike safety certified by the Motor Safety Foundation.

Through Mr. James' leadership, the first sport bike safety course in Air Education and Training Command opened last fall at Lackland, and a motorcycle and safety Web site he developed is considered one of the best in the command.

Mr. James has trained more than 25,000 students as a traffic safety instructor and MSF rider coach. In addition to base motorcycle safety classes, he has taught classes for the state of Texas and Harley Davidson rider's edge program.

Phil Brown, 37th Training Wing chief of safety and Mr. James' supervisor before part of the safety office realigned under the 502nd ABW, said the expertise of his co-worker is continually sought.

"They come to Bill," Mr. Brown said about other bases seeking guidance for their programs.

"Bill takes the mission of educating the Lackland populace on traffic safety to heart," said Mr. Brown. "He conducts the traffic safety newcomers orientation; he is the first face (from the safety office) every newcomer to Lackland sees. From that perspective, he gets the first opportunity to touch lives.

"He looks at the potential risk way beyond the scope of what is required. His forte is motorcycle training and traffic safety. What he teaches, promotes and advocates is not just from the lips, but from the heart and knowing how to survive in the traffic jungle."

Mr. James' love for motorcycles developed while growing up on an Iowa farm. He had three choices for transportation back then to get around the farm and country roads: walk, drive a tractor, or ride a mini bike. Motorcycles soon became his preferred mode of travel.

When Mr. James took the driver's license test on his 16th birthday, his father had a motorcycle in the back of the truck at the DMV office.

"As soon as I got my license, I took the motorcycle test and legally drove it home," he said with a laugh. "It was my first licensed drive and I haven't been off one since. In fact, I found it was easier to take a motorcycle to Korea than it was my family."

Mr. James retired in 2006 after 22 years in the Air Force. He spends weekends teaching at other locations because he likes it, adding, "I pretty much dream it 24/7. I'm always teaching it; I never stop.

"To make a career out of riding motorcycles, that's a dream job."