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A Different Kind of Overconfidence

A Different Kind of Overconfidence

CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER 3 TRAVIS WESTFALL
A Company, 3rd Battalion (Assault),
227th Aviation Regiment
Joint Base San Antonio
Fort Sam Houston, Texas

You hear a lot about overconfidence in the military and how it causes Soldiers to become complacent or take unnecessary risks. Whether it’s a feeling of invincibility or just a Soldier’s ego, overconfidence is a problem leaders deal with constantly. Overconfidence in the capabilities of the military equipment designed to keep Soldiers safe can also lead to problems. I witnessed the consequences of this type of thinking first-hand.

A few years ago, I observed a couple of Soldiers coming back from the range in their first sergeant’s HMMWV. Being in an aviation line unit, I knew these Soldiers didn't have a lot of experience driving Army combat vehicles. While they were trained to operate the vehicle, they just didn’t get the frequency of use that a lot of other Soldiers did.

As the Soldiers drove down the road, they noticed the HMMWV’s temperature gauge was registering a little higher than normal. Despite this early warning, they decided to keep driving when one of the Soldiers said that the HMMWV was built to handle adverse conditions and would run forever. A few minutes later, however, the engine stalled and steam shot out from under the hood. The engine was blown. The Soldiers exited the vehicle and realized that not stopping at the first sign of trouble had been a mistake.

When I was first informed of the incident, I immediately thought, “What happened to common sense?” As I reflect on it, I now see the incident in a different light.

Was this incident solely the Soldiers’ mistake? Maybe it was also their trainers’ mistake for pumping up the reality of the vehicle’s capabilities. They say an Apache main transmission will run without oil for a certain amount of time, but do you really want to test that? It might have been a good idea to stress the importance of operating the HMMWV only under those conditions when it is absolutely necessary, such as during a combat engagement.

Operators need to be confident with the equipment they operate. That way, they can focus on the mission, not whether their equipment is going to get them home. What we don’t need is Soldiers pushing the limit when it’s not needed because they are overconfident with their equipment. They need to understand the limitations, why they are put in place and when to push the edge. Having the proper knowledge and training might just save an expensive piece of equipment or, more importantly, a Soldier’s life.

  • 1 November 2014
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 10582
  • Comments: 0
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