CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER 2 JONATHAN MORRISON
F Company, 1st Aviation Regiment
Fort Riley, Kansas
A good friend of mine died in Iraq in 2003. I was a specialist at the time and never could’ve imagined how the loss of someone I was close to would affect me. We entered Iraq together and survived the harsh conditions. Driving in the sand with night vision goggles and blackouts on — you name it, we did it. Our unit accomplished a monumental task of driving more than 20 hours nonstop without a single accident. We were vigilant about making safety our top priority.
The days leading up to my friend’s death were very hot. I remember one day the temperature reached 137 F! In heat like that, no one wants to move around. In fact, when it’s that hot, it’s hard to even think straight. Every thought seems to revolve around who is going to rotate into the cooling tent next. More important thoughts, such as what tools are necessary to perform a potentially hazardous job, seem to fall by the wayside.
On the day of the accident, my friend had a few odds and ends to do, but one task in particular had to be completed. A Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck tire needed to be changed. Along with another NCO and two specialists, he set out to accomplish the mission. The tools needed for the job were typical heavy equipment tools, including a tire cage and a 10-foot extension air hose. Unfortunately, the motor sergeant wasn’t at the motor pool and wouldn’t be back until later in the day, so they didn’t have access to the necessary tools to change the tire.
The four Soldiers needed to get the HEMTT’s tire changed quickly and didn’t want to wait for the motor sergeant to return. They discussed using field expedient methods to change the tire, and my friend brought up an idea he used in a previous deployment. He wanted to use a crane attached to the HEMTT to hold down the tire while they inflated it.
After 30 minutes, they had the tire on the split rim and ready to put it back on the truck. They accomplished that task without any problems, but when my friend added more air, the split rim exploded. He wasn’t as far away from the tire as he would’ve been had he been using the 10-foot extension air hose required for the job. The split rim came out with a vengeance, striking my friend in the chest and neck. He died almost instantly. The other NCO was injured — his jaw, shoulder and arm broken. The other two Soldiers suffered partial hearing loss.
My friend survived combat only to meet his end at the unforgiving metallic edges of a split rim. After the fact, I tried to imagine what he was thinking. I never knew him to be in such a rush that he would jeopardize his safety. All I came up with was, “Why didn’t he wait?”
Sometimes we make decisions we think will move along the mission faster. Occasionally, however, those decisions end in a needless loss for the unit as well as family members. This was a sad lesson learned. I miss my friend terribly and am proud to have served with him in defense of our country. I hate losing him to such a senseless accident.FYI
Having a solid understanding on the safety and operational aspects of HEMTT enhances the unit combat power and safety posture of assigned personnel. For more information on HEMTT-related materials and operator training guides, check out our Driver’s Training Toolbox at https://safety.army.mil/ON-DUTY/DriversTrainingToolbox.aspx
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