Weapons Handling 101—Large Bore 5
Hearing Loss = Combat Casualty 6
An Upside-Down and Deadly World 8
A Tale of Two Convoys 10
Port Ops—Getting There is Half the Battle 12
Tie It Down the Right Way! 14
Beside the Green
Preparing for a Successful Deployment 16
Am I My Buddy’s Keeper? 18
Mastering the Master Driver Program 20
Carrying Safety Into the Future 21
Mail Call 22
Accident Briefs 23
Back Cover: Why We Wear Ballistic Goggles (poster from OIF) 24
From the Director of Army Safety Preparing the Next “Greatest Generation” of Soldiers
On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., the sight of the World War II memorial brought clarity to a message I’ve heard in the last several weeks. The American Battle Monuments Commission maintains the World War II Memorial to honor the 16 million Americans who served in our armed forces—including the more than 400,000 who died—and all who supported the war effort from home. Symbolic of the defining event of the 20th century, the memorial is a monument to the “spirit, sacrifice, and commitment of the American people.” On May 27, 2004, the public was invited to the unveiling ceremonies to view this tribute to America’s “Greatest Generation.”
Today, the message sent from our senior leaders is to prepare America’s 21st century Army and its Soldiers to be the next Greatest Generation. We are in an incredible Army—one that is resourced for success. Our future is in the hands of a generation of Soldiers returning from battle with a degree of knowledge and experience that would take years of schooling, deployments, and rigorous training to match. How do we keep this generation great?
Grasp the knowledge of our junior leaders and coach them on “composite risks.”By learning from our current combat leaders, we can simultaneously capture lessons learned and implement control measures to mandate how war fighting and training will be conducted in the 21st century. Specifically, we must not lose the insights of these leaders—Soldiers who understand tactical risk first-hand, or who have experienced accidental risk personally. However, we’re not there yet in capturing those insights.
After visiting several units in Iraq during July, it was clear we still have a “void” or “mental barrier” preventing us from blending tactical and accidental risks into a “composite” risk. In other words, we’re not yet viewing the risks to our combat power holistically. When you’re dead you’re dead—regardless of whether a bullet or accident took you out of play. Our mission ready exercises, pre-deployment site surveys, relief in place, and military decision-making processes must come together to not only capture lessons learned from our junior leaders, but also coach the art of “composite risk mitigation.”
When I asked new convoy commanders about their biggest threat, most said “improvised explosive devices.” New air mission commanders responded to the same question with “man-portable air defense systems and rocket-propelled grenades.” Ask a Soldier in the mess tent and he’ll say “rocket attacks on the tent city.” For those of you in theater and those who’ve just left, I’m certain this sounds very familiar.
However, when I approach Soldiers who’ve been hardened by combat, I often get a different response. The seasoned convoy commander told me “fatigue” was his number one hazard because he’s mitigated the tactical risks with tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs). The seasoned air mission commander told me “mid-air collision” was his number one hazard because of TTPs. The weathered cook told me, “I’ve heard the rockets go off, but I’m more concerned about getting hit by a negligent discharge than by shrapnel from a rocket attack.” All these Soldiers have gotten it—they understand how tactical and accidental risks come together as a composite risk.
We must not return home to the same old field training exercises and common task training (CTT). Our rising senior leaders are more than capable of training and risk managing by using a few simple basics, including fighter management, solid pre-mission planning, and strong troop leading procedures. These leaders have the combat knowledge to defeat both aspects of composite risk.
Sharpen the skills of our already highly trained and hardened Soldiers.Let’s get the job done and be smart about it by allowing more flexibility to deal with the less predictable tactical risks. The Chief of Staff, Army said, “We cannot be risk averse, but we can be smart about managing risk.” The best way is to sharpen the skills of our junior leaders and provide them with expert knowledge. They are skilled, seasoned warriors who will get the job done.
We must capture the importance of pre-mission planning for every mission. Most infantrymen can recite the details from the release point through the entire grid of a cordon and search. However, when asking about the line-up, start point, or route, I get the “deer in the headlights look.” Time constraint is another issue, sometimes keeping us from coaching all the troop leading procedures and doing the basics right. Fast-moving operations require sharpened leader skills, which also holds true for aviation. How often have you flown an air assault time-on-target, and then come home and recovered through a forward arming and refueling point (FARP) and parking, only to realize how little you focused on this part of the mission?
I’m not asking you to change focus in combat; on the contrary, I’m asking that you sharpen your skills during training to allow more planning time for actions on the objective. We need standardized battle drills, standing operating procedures, and reporting procedures across our Army. Doing so will add “constants” to the pre-mission planning formula and allow more time for working on the details of “variables” and mitigating the composite risk. Lining up vehicles, moving through various types of terrain, FARP actions, and formation flight over urban areas at zero illumination—those are the types of constants that should be trained. Mission, enemy, terrain, troops and time available (METT-T) then can be tailored to your actions on the objective.
Retain the abilities of your “A” student Soldiers. Soldiers in vehicle accidents account for more than two-thirds of our non-combat losses. Those that “get it” have much lower losses. I Corps Command Sergeant Major Barry Wheeler often refers to an “A-B-C” scale of Soldier performance. I submit that the “C” Soldiers will return from deployment and go back to their old ways of driver training and risk management. The “A” NCO will understand that driving a military vehicle has evolved into a basic Soldier skill—an evaluated CTT proficiency. The “A” student will train to standard based upon the lessons learned and the composite risks.
The same holds true for weapons qualification and handling. “A” students of modern ground warfare will require that qualification courses and convoy live-fire exercises involve the use of individual protective equipment and ARMOX®. “A” student aviators will demand that training standards reflect combat flying. Zero illumination with a hard deck altitude is common practice in war, and we must implement training at home to retain this ability. We must not return home and allow organizations to return to their old ways. Instead, we must sustain the momentum and build upon the abilities of our returning warriors.
During World War II, 56 percent of our Army’s casualties were the result of accidents. When you look at the nearly 235,000 Army Soldiers who died during that conflict, it puts the 2004 accidental death rate into perspective. However, the current number of accidental deaths versus combat losses is still unacceptable. I review every reported accident in our Army, and to date all but a handful were preventable.
During my recent travels a young captain asked me, “Should there be an ‘H’ in METT-T?” He said the H “would singularly examine (H)azards associated with the mission.” During 15 months of deployment, he’d seen combat in Afghanistan and Iraq and knew first-hand the tactical risks. He also understood accident risks and never had to personally suffer the consequences. He understood composite risk, and how important it is to mitigate both tactical and accidental risks to preserve a unit’s fighting ability.
We need to retain young leaders like him and use their knowledge. The Army depends upon the knowledge, skills, and abilities of its returning warriors. Balancing accidental and tactical risks is the future of risk management. The future of this Army is in the hands of our young leaders. They will be our next “Greatest Generation.”
Our Army at War: Be Safe and Make it Home! BG Joe Smith
Director of Army Safety Hearing Loss = Combat Casualty (928 words)
SGM MICHAEL SIENDA
1st Armored Division
It was shaping up to be just another morning patrol in Baghdad—as normal as could be expected in a war zone. Normal, that is, until KABOOM! An improvised explosive device (IED) exploded just in front of our HMMWV on the driver’s side, rocking it and sending shrapnel and debris flying at us.
The concussion and noise caused ringing in my ears, and the smoke disoriented me. Then everything appeared to move in slow motion as we realized we were caught in a well-coordinated ambush. Small arms fire from about 150 meters ahead began hitting our HMMWV. Although our vehicle was disabled, the TC and I yelled at the driver to keep driving. We rolled as far as we could through the kill zone. When our HMMWV finally died, we dismounted and took cover. My driver and I both had been hit by shrapnel from the IED, and I also took a glancing bullet to my helmet. Another driver had an AK bullet impact his helmet’s nametape, but it did not fully penetrate to his head. The situation was incredibly intense, but we managed to make it out without any serious injuries. We were fortunate.
I thought I had escaped unharmed, but some injuries aren’t visible. For well over a month, a ringing sound persisted in my left ear. I also noticed I was hearing certain sounds differently. The possibility of permanent hearing loss concerned me, but as time passed the ringing stopped and my hearing gradually improved. However, it hasn’t been the same since that day.
Loud noise and concussion are extremely effective offensive weapons. For many years, Special Operations forces and SWAT teams have used “flash bangs” or stun grenades during room-clearing operations to throw the bad guys off balance and quickly gain the initiative. This shock and violent action works well by dramatically overloading the senses and slowing reaction times. Our enemies know this, and Iraqi insurgents continue to use hundreds of roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades against us. Many Soldiers have suffered hearing injuries from these attacks.
Most Soldiers don’t consider wearing hearing protection in combat. I certainly didn’t. But protecting your ears is just as important as shielding your eyes, hands, and head from injury. Taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the battlefield without impairment improves situational awareness and enables a faster response. My situational awareness was reduced dramatically when I needed it most because I couldn’t hear what was going on around me. Hearing, along with the other senses, allows leaders to direct their Soldiers and communicate with them during the “fog of war.” And, unlike other injuries, hearing loss caused by loud noise can be permanent, despite medical treatment.
After the attack, I was faced with a decision. Should I wear my old triple-flange earplugs whenever I departed our compound? Although I knew they would protect me from loud, hazardous noises if we were attacked again, that protection would come at a cost—my ability to distinguish low-level sounds, such as voices. I figured the benefit outweighed the cost, so I didn’t leave the compound without them.
I’m sure I wasn’t alone in this thinking. Helmets for tankers and aircrews have integrated hearing protection, but the Kevlars issued to the rest of the Army don’t. Until recently, Soldiers could either wear regular earplugs or nothing at all. However, in 2001, the Army developed the Combat Arms Earplug (CAE). This special earplug protects the ear from impulse-type noise, such as weapons fire and explosions, but allows the wearer to hear normal communications and sounds on the battlefield. It’s also a dual-purpose earplug. In tactical situations Soldiers insert the yellow end of the plug, leaving the olive drab end exposed. This protects against loud noises while still allowing Soldiers to hear conversations. In industrial situations, Soldiers reverse the plug and leave the yellow end exposed to protect against loud machinery noises.
The CAE is the next-best thing until the Army fields a helmet with integrated hearing protection for dismounted Soldiers. It is a significant advance and will better protect Soldiers, especially during weapons firing. The M16 is one of the Army’s loudest weapons. At more than 157 decibels, it is louder than both the M2 .50 cal and MK19 Grenade Launcher. The M249 Squad Automatic Weapon is even louder at 159 decibels. Repeated firing at these elevated decibel levels without protection can cause permanent hearing damage.
Wearing the CAE takes some getting used to, especially in a combat environment, but it’s worth it in the long run. Soldiers wearing the CAE gain greater confidence in their abilities, especially when firing their weapons. Because of the reduced noise, the Soldier will be less likely to flinch while firing, thereby improving accuracy.
We can expect our enemies to continue using IEDs and rocket-propelled grenades against us in future conflicts. You can bet that without hearing protection, many Soldiers will return home with some form of hearing loss. Don’t be one of those Soldiers—the ears you’ve got are the only ones you’ll ever have. Take care of them!
Editor’s Note: The CAE is available under NSNs 6515-01-466-2710 and 6515-01-512-6072. A 19-year Army veteran, SGMSienda has served in a variety of conventional and special mission units in the counterintelligence and security fields. At the time of this incident he was serving as the G2 Sergeant Major for the 1st Armored Division in Iraq. He has since returned to Wiesbaden, Germany. He may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An Upside-Down and Deadly World SFC JOHN TEMPLE
Ground Accident Investigator
U.S. Army Safety Center (871 words)
Second platoon’s first real combat mission in Iraq was scheduled to be a nighttime show of force. Equipped with Strykers, they were part of a larger unit and eager to get going to show what they could do.
They would be driving down some narrow, muddy roads. Although a few of the Soldiers had been down the route before, they’d been in the back of a vehicle and didn’t really get a good look. The narrow road was bordered by canals and had an 8-foot drop-off on both sides. The route was very dangerous.
Earlier that day, the platoon had readied their equipment and lined up for movement. It was still daylight when they began their mission, driving the route over the muddy roads. Darkness fell just as the platoon reached the most dangerous part of the route. Because the road was barely visible, many Soldiers donned their night vision goggles as they moved.
Suddenly an urgent message came over the radio—one of the Strykers had gone off the left side of the road, rolled over, and landed upside down in the canal. In fact, although the platoon didn’t know it, two Strykers more than 200 yards apart had gone off the road and rolled over into the same canal. Both vehicles were sitting upside down on their remotely operated weapons systems, with one side of the vehicle resting against the bank. Nineteen Soldiers were trapped inside the partially submerged Strykers.
Both Strykers began rapidly filling with water, which was soon up to the Soldier’s chins. As they stood inside the troop compartment, the Soldiers were afraid the Strykers might tilt and allow more water to flood in.
The squad leader inside the first Stryker yelled for a head count. He thought he heard each Soldier yell back and assumed everyone was accounted for. What he didn’t realize was that he heard a Soldier calling out the name of a missing Soldier as he searched for him. The driver, who also was underwater, was having trouble escaping his compartment. Equipment blocked the passageway to the troop compartment, so he couldn’t escape through that route. Ultimately, he got the driver’s hatch open, swam out of the Stryker, and then crawled on top of it. There he was joined by one of the vehicle’s air guards, who’d barely managed to get out his hatch after the vehicle rolled over.
Inside the troop compartment the second air guard struggled underwater to open the back door. He passed out; possibly not realizing the door—which would have fallen open were the vehicle right side up—now had to be pushed open. The driver and air guard who’d gotten out of the vehicle opened the rear door, allowing the Soldiers inside to escape. They then climbed onto the road, resuscitated the second air guard, and conducted another head count. Finding one Soldier missing, the squad leader went back inside the Stryker to find him. He found the Soldier lifeless, just a few inches beneath the water’s surface. His load bearing equipment (LBE) had become entangled inside the vehicle, trapping him underwater.
The water was also up to the Soldiers’ chins in the second Stryker. They tried to open the troop compartment door—their only way out—but heard someone outside yelling, “There’s a lock on the troop door!” The Soldiers started to panic, so the team leader tried to calm them and asked for a head count. Two Soldiers—the driver and squad leader—were missing. The driver was trapped in his compartment. Equipment in the passageway leading to the troop compartment blocked his escape. The other missing Soldier, the squad leader, was trapped underwater by his LBE. It was almost a half hour before the lock was cut and the Soldiers could escape. By then, the driver and squad leader had both drowned.
Second platoon’s first mission ended in tragedy as three Soldiers died without ever engaging the enemy. It was a high price to pay to learn the following lessons:
Before heading out, leaders must conduct risk management for the entire mission—to include the complete driving route—to mitigate the hazards.
Leaders must brief the route to the entire platoon so every Soldier knows the hazards to be faced.
Crews must conduct rollover drills, and ensure those drills are tailored to the mission. For example, if the route follows canals, Soldiers must know what to do should their vehicle roll over and land upside down in the water.
Rollover drills are important, however, Soldiers also need to practice exiting their vehicle. The Soldiers who died in these Strykers had survived the rollovers, but couldn’t egress their vehicles. For example, had the crew in the second Stryker practiced exiting their vehicle, someone would have noticed the lock on the troop door.
Soldiers must conduct thorough pre-combat inspections on their vehicles to ensure all equipment is serviceable and there are no locks on hatches or doors.
Contact the author at (334) 255-2959, DSN 558-2959, or e-mail email@example.com. A Tale of Two Convoys LTC JOSEPH K. MILLER
Ground Accident Investigator
U.S. Army Safety Center (758 words)
The wrong way
Worried about meeting their start point (SP) time, the convoy’s leaders hurried their Soldiers through the vehicle offloading process at the seaport of debarkation (SPOD). In a few hours, three convoys had converged into a single massive line of vehicles as they waited for the rest of the vehicles to come off the ship. When the vehicles were ready to roll, theater movement control personnel divided them into two marches instead of the originally planned three convoys. The convoy was two hours late, and the convoy commander hurried through a short safety briefing so he could get the vehicles underway. None of the unit’s senior officers or NCOs were at the SP site.
The lead serial turned right to link up with a local national escort. The second serial, which was led by the first sergeant, waited an additional five minutes before starting. Since he wasn’t part of the previous day’s route reconnaissance, he missed the right turn that led to the escort vehicles. The convoy commander failed to conduct a radio check prior to the SP, and now the first sergeant couldn’t contact him by radio.
Meanwhile, the convoy commander had increased his speed to keep up with the escort vehicle. The convoy vehicles soon became separated. Even though each vehicle’s senior occupant had a strip map, it was hard to read. Furthermore, the convoy commander hadn’t designated any checkpoints at the major intersections.
The result was a mess. Seven vehicles broke down along the route and were stranded until they could be recovered. As it began to get dark, elements of the second serial followed other military vehicles on a different route and ended up at another base camp.
The right way
Two days prior to deploying, the convoy commander briefed the division G-4 on how he’d organized, prepared, and rehearsed his convoy. He described the risk assessment he’d conducted with his subordinate leaders and how they’d incorporated control measures into their convoy rehearsals and briefings. He also discussed the convoy personnel and vehicle manifest, route intelligence summary, and how terrain models and rock drills were being used to show convoy personnel the route. He explained each vehicle was being provided a strip map with check points. He added that convoy personnel were rehearsing ambush immediate action drills, learning how to break contact after an engagement, and deal with roadblocks and improvised explosive devices. He added that they’d been trained in how to call in air and ground MEDEVAC.
The division G-4 and the chief of staff were present at the SP site. Three hours before the convoy departed, the first sergeant and senior NCOs checked the vehicles to ensure preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCS) had been done and inspected load plans and tie-down procedures. They also conducted weapons functions checks, verified ammunition condition and status, and inspected the placement of crew-served weapons. In addition, they checked internal and external communications; including frequencies, crypto loads, and emergency call signs. They also took note of how medics and tow bars were dispersed throughout the convoy and ensured each Soldier’s personal equipment included a Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC) Rules of Engagement (ROE) and MEDEVAC card with the nine-line report. In addition, they made sure each Soldier had extra food and water. An hour before departing, the convoy commander quizzed his personnel on their training and reiterated the importance of the convoy staying together.
The convoy deployed on time and halted twice before reaching its destination. At each halt, a 360-degree security perimeter was posted. The convoy successfully reached its destination with all its vehicles and personnel.