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Check and Verify

Check and Verify

Headquarters and Headquarters Company
12th Combat Aviation Brigade
U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach, Germany

As a young Soldier, I was excited about working in aviation. I was immediately responsible for protecting the lives of everyone who entered and operated my “bird,” as well as maintaining the aircraft when it was not in flight.

In the Army, military personnel are Soldiers first; in aviation, crew chiefs are Soldiers committed to safety first. As a newbie, I never accomplished tasks or missions without an NCO overseeing my work. Fortunately, I had an NCO who taught me what right looks like and ensured I followed all safety practices while performing my duties. I’ve always looked up to my NCOs and leaders. Early in my career, I set a goal to one day become an influential NCO who holds the line and enforces the standards.

Day-to-day missions bring adventure

As a platoon sergeant assigned to an attack reconnaissance battalion during the 1st Cavalry Division’s deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08, I was responsible for the maintenance of nine aircraft and ensuring my Soldiers/crew chiefs performed their jobs properly and safely. The air cav brigade was responsible for all aviation assets and support of the division.

The high operational tempo of our missions took its toll on both man and machine. As a senior NCO, I ensured my Soldiers and aircraft were always ready for the missions. Our crew chiefs conducted scheduled and routine maintenance before and after each mission on 12-hour shifts. I stressed to them that proper maintenance is the key to a safe and successful mission and post-flight inspections are just as important as pre-flights. Aviators and crew chiefs performed these inspections; however, this wasn’t always the case, especially after a six-hour mission. We conducted preventive maintenance checks and services, oil samples and gun inspections on a daily basis due to consecutive and sometimes concurrent missions.

I will never forget one particular PMCS job I inspected. Generally, platoon sergeants in a flight company have limited inspection authority. The crew chief asked me to sign off on an inspection after he had installed panels. Incidentally, crew chiefs don’t install panels before the technical inspector performs the safety checks. Nevertheless, I developed a trust with my crew chiefs since they had performed this inspection numerous times.

I checked all the panels for proper installation; however, I was having second thoughts about signing off on the inspection. I needed to check an R510 panel to ensure the grease plug was tightened properly on the tail rotor intermediate gearbox. I removed the panel and was shocked to see what was found behind it.

The “trustworthy” crew chief had left his Gerber multi-tool on the tail boom, right below the No. 5 driveshaft. I couldn’t believe he had done such a careless and unsafe act, knowing the aircraft was getting ready to fly a mission. I went back to the shop, grabbed my camera and took pictures of the hazard. I then confronted the crew chief and his squad leader with what I had found and showed them the pictures.

Both Soldiers were speechless because they knew the consequences if the tool had not been recovered. As corrective training, the crew chief was not allowed to work on an aircraft without his squad leader’s supervision. Additionally, due to this incident and prior events, the battalion quality control NCOIC enforced standing operating procedures that all maintainers were not to use their personal tools while working on aircraft. This incident was a close call and could have been a catastrophic accident if the tool had not been found.

I remember our battalion commander always preached about the “CAV” acronym — Coordinate, Anticipate and Verify. This was an eye opener for me. Even an excellent Soldier makes mistakes. I learned a valuable lesson that day: You can trust your Soldiers, but as an NCO, you always need to Check And Verify (CAV).

  • 1 July 2016
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 1292
  • Comments: 0