MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- It’s inevitable. All activities have risks. All risks can be managed, and mishaps can be prevented. Ultimately, all Marines are accountable.
Despite efforts to reduce mishaps, the Marine Corps failed to meet a challenge in 2003 presented by the secretary of defense to reduce mishaps by 50 percent within two years.
The new challenge for Marine Corps commands is to reduce mishaps by 75 percent by the end of fiscal year 2008.
As a result, the Corps implemented their own crusade through the Warrior Preservation Campaign, an idea which refreshes the custom that Marines take care of their own, beginning at the small unit level.
Enhancing force preservation will prevent mishaps and reduce personnel loss. Force preservation concepts enhance combat readiness and reduce the danger of all activities, on and off duty, while ensuring that individual judgment and unit responsibility preserve the Corps’ most valuable assets. In the end, force preservation equals improved mission effectiveness.
Combat Center safety manager, William G. Huie, believes mentoring Marines beginning at the small unit level and clearly stating expectations both on and off duty, empowers leaders to affect a Marine’s personal development. Loss of life due to careless mishaps is unacceptable.
“In fiscal year 2005 more than two platoons of Marines died in personal motorized vehicles,” said Huie. “If we lost two platoons in Iraq that would be a significant loss and it would affect the mission.”
Huie said the Marine Corps took leadership lessons learned from Marines functioning in a combat environment and is attempting to create the same cohesion on the home front that exists on the frontline.
“A fire team in battle is trained to instinctively know what their comrades are going to do,” said Huie. “That’s the same mentality we need to instill in Marines back here. We need to get all the Marines here to do what they do in battle — watch your buddy’s back and keep him out of trouble.”
During the 50 percent mishap reduction campaign there were 112 fatalities, equivalent to one Marine death every 78 hours according to the Naval Safety Center. As of April 26, there have been 75 fatalities due to mishaps, mostly from motor vehicles.
“The Marine Corps is close to losing as many Marines in cars as we did in Iraq,” said Huie.
A solution to the loss of life is to place more emphasis on the small unit leadership.
“Get to know your Marines,” said Huie. “Know what they’re doing and familiarize yourself with their behavior. The rules are there, make sure everybody knows them because it’s not a matter of whether the Marine doesn’t know the rules. Marines know the rules, sometimes they just choose to ignore them.”
Operational risk management is critical to having a safety-conscious Marine Corps team able to sustain its lethality, meet operational commitments and always be ready to meet unexpected surge requirements, all while protecting the Corps’ most valued asset, the Marines.
In combat Marines protect each other with watchful eyes. Huie said when Marines return they act as individuals and the unit cohesiveness disappears.
“Get your Marines to watch each other and to take good care of each other walking down the street in Yucca Valley just as they would in Fallujah.”