Risk Management Magazine

Search for Articles

Negligent Discharge ... with a Rocket

Negligent Discharge ... with a Rocket

1st Battalion, 291st Aviation Regiment
Fort Hood, Texas

While assigned to Task Force Viper at Forward Operating Base Wolverine in January 2013, two armament Soldiers were tasked to conduct a stray current check on an OH-58 Kiowa Warrior rocket pod. The aircraft was properly parked in front of a HESCO barrier that was stacked two high. It was early in the morning and cold outside. Being stationed at FOB Wolverine had its own challenges at night, as anyone who has been there will attest. It was as dark could be. You never left your headlamp in your room; it was as important as your ID card and weapon.

The crew troubleshooting the rocket pod should have read the Task, Condition and Standards section for this procedure in the aircrew training manual even though they had done it a hundred times. One Soldier sat in the pilot’s seat with the battery switch on, and the other, outside with a multimeter tester, had not removed the rockets from the pods before conducting the check. They wanted to finish it quickly since it was cold and dark.

The Soldier standing outside the aircraft had pushed all the 2.75-inch high-explosive rockets away from the rocket pod contact pins. Smart, right? You know it’s not going to turn out well for someone or this story wouldn’t have made into Knowledge magazine, so here we go.

The Soldier standing behind the rocket pod was coordinating with the other Soldier in the pilot’s crew station, telling him when to pull the trigger so he could monitor the voltage. Then it happened. The Solider outside was blasted in the chest and face with a bright flame as the rocket ignited out of the tube and flew into the HESCO barrier. It didn’t explode, but it did impale one-third of its length into the barrier.

We were lucky no one was walking in front of the aircraft as they were working on it because it could have killed them. I know what you’re thinking — no one walks in front of a fully armed aircraft, but it can happen.

The Soldier who had been hit by the rocket blast was hurt, but he was lucky too. Our chain of command and safety personnel had made it clear about the importance of wearing personal protective equipment. The Soldier was wearing eye protection that saved his eyes, gloves that saved his hands and a coat and his aviation uniform made of material that burns off in case of a fire. The uniform worked as advertised. Still, the Soldier was seriously hurt and needed immediate medical attention. Two Army aviators, one of them a safety officer, happened to be in the area and helped by rendering first-aid.

This incident demonstrated some important things. Get out there and supervise! Train as you fight — if you don’t allow anyone to walk in front of a fully armed aircraft in training, don’t let your Soldiers do it in combat. Ensure your personnel review the Task, Condition and Standards for a job so it will be performed safely. Enforce the use of PPE and practice your pre-accident plan. Ensure your troops know the location of the casualty collection point and to not move a Soldier with severe injuries. Consider sending Soldiers to a combat lifesavers course because it provides your unit with additional medical resources that can save lives.

  • 1 April 2015
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 10329
  • Comments: 0