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The Straight and Narrow

The Straight and Narrow

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MATTHEW MENDENHALL
1st Battalion, 212th Aviation Regiment
Fort Rucker, Alabama


When you’re driving an Army motor vehicle, whether in a tactical convoy or off-road in the field, you need to know about any dangers along the route. Perhaps there are critical areas where driving off the road is not an option because of dangerous terrain. Maybe some areas are better than others for a comfort stop. If you’ve driven an Army vehicle, you probably can imagine any number of tactical scenarios where you’d need to drive off the road in a hurry.

The problem is that some Soldiers arrive at their units with little or no driving experience. Imagine a Soldier driving Chalk 3 in a 10-vehicle convoy when the dirt road turns into a muddy, slippery mess. Do you really think that Soldier will be thinking far enough ahead to plan his actions should a drive-off be necessary? I’ll give you a case in point.

I was a 19-year-old infantryman taking part in a field exercise with my unit. The exercise was nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, it was very typical because of the rain and mud. I was driving Chalk 2 and had three years of driving experience. However, this was the first time I’d driven outside the unit training area. The rain was coming down hard, the rutted dirt road was just wide enough to fit through, and there were large erosion ditches on both sides.

I knew the ditches were there, but I was only paying attention to what was going on right in front of me. I was about five truck lengths behind the lead truck when it suddenly swerved off the road and then back on again. Fortunately, the driver did this on a section that didn’t have erosion ditches. Just then I noticed a turtle in the road in front of me. I started to swerve off the road to miss it, but my truck commander grabbed the wheel and kept it from turning. I’d thought I could swerve just as the lead truck had. In that instant, I didn’t think about the ditches on either side of me. I just wanted to miss the turtle. Fortunately, it was a lucky day for all involved. I didn’t drive into a ditch and the turtle made it across the road without being squashed.

The point is drivers need to be briefed on drive-off problems or limitations before they get on the road. Some roads run along 1,000-foot-tall cliffs, while others might border minefields. To keep drivers on the straight and narrow, make sure you emphasize the “terrain” part of your mission, enemy, terrain, troops and time available (METT-T) briefing. And do it before your drivers head out on a mission!



  • 1 March 2018
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 800
  • Comments: 0
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