NAVAL SUPPORT FACILITY INDIAN HEAD, Md. --
Prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, II Marine Expeditionary Force, conducted mandatory safety training here and invited safety professionals from the National Capitol Region to join in their pledge for a “Six day campaign for zero fatalities.”
Michael Armstrong, a Maryland State Trooper, asked, “Where in the noncommissioned officers creed does it say, I will drink and drive, do drugs, and beat my spouse and kids?”
Armstrong, a former Marine assigned to CBIRF, pledged to make sure his Marines were safe when he was on active duty and he continues that pledge in a different uniform on the highways near his former duty station. As part of that pledge he offered several simple tips to remain safe.
“Make sure you have enough rest prior to driving your vehicle, make sure your vehicle is taken care of, maintain your professionalism, don’t drink and drive, don’t do drugs, do the right thing,” said Armstrong. “That’s what’s going to get you back home in one piece. If you fall to the wayside, you’re going to end up killing yourself or someone else.”
During the safety brief, Marines and sailors of CBIRF were presented with real-life accounts of tragic and often graphic mishaps; a “shock and awe” presentation of highway accidents that bore an all too familiar resemblance to the roadways our Marines and sailors travel on a daily basis.
“Safety needs to be a personal responsibility for every Marine and sailor,” said 1st Lt. Kelly Beasley, safety officer for CBIRF. “So, Marines and sailors can take a few precautions to ensure they are safe not only for the holidays but for other situations in their lives.”
Trends in the Marine Corps indicate there is a spike in incidents around the holidays due to many factors including stress, financial problems, and relationship issues. The Marine Corps makes it a top priority to ensure Marines stay fit and healthy regardless of these factors.
“There are a lot of people counting on you, and you have family members back home who want to see you come back after those long weekends,” said Gunnery Sgt. James Reilly, CBIRF Basic Course instructor. “Your mom wants to see you again next Christmas.”
Reilly told a story to the Marines, one that affected him personally. On Oct. 31, 2006, he was in a vehicle accident that could have killed him.
“I was doing pretty much everything I was supposed to do. I was going the speed limit, and I had my headlights on, but I didn’t have my seatbelt on … I just forgot to put it on,” he said. “There was a car stopped in the travel lane at night with no flashers on or hazard markers to identify it as being stopped. I rear-ended the other vehicle … My vehicle rolled over several times, and I was ejected through the driver’s side window at about 55 miles an hour.”
Reilly knows he’s fortunate not only to be alive, but to share this personal tragedy as a training opportunity for his Marines. He hopes that talking about his experience will inspire Marines to be safe and not learn a hard lesson like he did.
Units cannot do enough to push safety awareness training during the holiday season, said Beasley.
“Since the beginning of the fiscal year, there’s an alarming trend in off duty, non-combat related fatalities across the board,” said Beasley. “The cure for this epidemic begins with the leadership mindset. We need to transcend the check-in-the-box attitude and train proactively for safety. It’s got to hit home to every Marine and sailor to turn the corner and effect change.”
“A majority of the mishaps since the beginning of the fiscal year have been off-duty mishaps, and it comes down to knowing our Marines, knowing that they’ve got a plan, and making sure we supervise their actions and plans for the weekend,” said Beasley.
Many units are conducting mandatory safety stand downs, operational pauses during the work week to reignite safety awareness, over the course of this holiday season. Recently, CBIRF hosted a team from Street Smart, a program sponsored by Stay Alive from Education (S.A.F.E) to provide a presentation to the battalion. The Street Smart program takes the audience into the real-life drama experienced by firefighters and paramedics as they work to save lives of individuals who made poor choices to drink and drive, use drugs, or fail to wear seat belts.
“Street Smart not only captivated the CBIRF audience, but hit a grand slam for the program’s goals. This interactive presentation truly demonstrated the consequences of poor choices resulting in motor vehicle mishaps,” said Beasley. “It instilled positive behavior modification principles using operational risk management, and it provided the tools necessary to reduce and eliminate trauma-related death and injury of young adults due to high risk behaviors.”
The Street Smart team has traveled the country and overseas promoting this positive educational program at no cost to the military since the program’s inception 16 years ago.
“We jumped at the opportunity for this presentation and (Street Smarts) exceeded our expectations,” said Beasley. “True professionals, they most certainly made a lasting impact for our unit.”
Safety is a top priority for Marine Corps commands, and there are several resources Marines and sailors can use to minimize off-duty incidents including logging ontowww.safetycenter.navy.mil.
“Commands need to utilize their safety representatives within their sections. They are the frontline folks to help push resources,” said Beasley.