Etowah County deputies train for motorcycle unit certification

Etowah County sheriff's deputies are participating in motorcycle training in preparation for certification. (

The Etowah County Sheriff's Office is set to have{}more helmet-wearing, Harley-riding deputies.

Rodney Couch and Brian Boatwright spent this week training with the current members of the sheriff's Motor Unit in preparations for certification.{} Both began riding motorcycles before they were old enough to drive a car, but found that experience only helps a little.

"I've been riding for 35 years and{}I thought{}I knew how to ride,"{}Couch said.

"After this,{}I realized I've just been sitting on an engine going down the road.{} The technical aspects of riding that have been brought up this week have just blown me away."

The Sheriff's Office has five Harley Davidson Road King motorcycles, each of which weigh about 850 pounds. Deputy Boatwright said operating the police bikes are{}quite different from street riding.

"The thinking is not even the same.{} It's pretty much similar to a civilian on the streets and police on patrol.{} They're two totally different things to learn," Boatwright said.

He first learned to ride a motorcycle when he was five or six years old.

The deputies{}familiarize themselves with balance, control, weight distribution and practice lots quick but steady maneuvering while the bike moves slowly, as it will during most operation.

The instructor set up several complex patterns of cones for the trainees to navigate.

"We do a lot of funeral escorts, parades, and crowd control for some of the parades," Motor Unit member{}Bob Vosbury said.{} "You can get motorcycles in areas you can't get vehicles."

Deputies Couch and Boatwright hope to soon join Vosbury and the three other active members of the Etowah County Sheriff Motor Unit, and the office plans to train additional members in the near future.

"The training is extremely hard, the hours are long, the bikes are hot, the temperatures are hot, but when you're doing something that you love, blood, sweat, and tears won't stop you from attaining it if you keep your head in the game," Boatwright said.

He was so focused on the training, he said he didn't even realize the similarity to CHiPs, a{}classic television show about the motorcycle officers of California Highway Patrol.

"I hadn't thought about it one time until you brought it up.{} Not one time," Boatwright said.

"It will be [in my head] all day long," he said with a laugh.