STAFF SGT. SONIA B. WILLCOCK
Virgin Islands National Guard
U.S. Virgin Islands
"Holy cow! Did you just see that?" I asked my friend. "That garbage truck almost ran over me!" All the driver could say was, "I'm so sorry. I didn't see you back there."
During the months leading up to this near miss, that driver, Sam, had been operating his dump truck without a ground guide. He'd been doing it for so long that it was habit. According to him, he worked a lot faster doing everything by himself. At the time, his favorite phrase was, "Who needs a ground guide?"
Master Sgt. Samuel Samson served in the military for 32 years as a motor vehicle operations specialist and was a decorated motor pool manager. An expert at everything motorized, he was known as Sacred Sam because he was very passionate about his job. He was always a stickler for the details; everything had to be done by the book. Sam was a model Soldier.
Fast forward a few years later, and Sam had started his own garbage disposal company. With money he had saved, he bought a couple of trucks and hired some employees. As the business prospered, so did his fleet of trucks. In an effort to save money, Sam decided to drive one of his trucks. He was comfortable driving and had never had an accident. Little did he know things were about to change.
Sam's close call with me was terrifying, and I hoped he'd learned his lesson. Sadly, that wasn't the case. Three weeks later, my friends and I were on our way home when we noticed a large crowd and flashing lights at the middle school. We thought something big must have happened because of all the commotion, so we headed over to investigate.
There were children and parents crying everywhere. A bystander told us that a 12-year-old student was struck and killed as he was crossing the parking lot. A dump truck was backing up and ran him over. Sam said he never saw the kid and claimed he came out of nowhere.
Sam's story is tragic and could've been avoided. The Army gives us tools and training that should be adopted as life skills, both on and off duty. They should also be carried with Soldiers even after they leave the military.
Did You Know?
Ground guiding is a task almost every Soldier performs. Ground guides assist equipment operators in identifying potential hazards, obstacles and personnel that they may not otherwise see. However, when it’s not executed safely, lives are in jeopardy. Each year, Soldiers and civilians are seriously injured and killed in ground-guiding accident. Safety officials agree that most of these types of accidents are preventable. To learn more, visit our Know the Signs campaign page at https://safety.army.mil/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=jIlkd_ukB6E%3d&tabid=2409 and https://safety.army.mil/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=wvSuxiIYxRY%3d&tabid=2409. For standardized visual signals, check out Field Manual 21-60 (Visual Signals) at http://armypubs.army.mil/doctrine/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/fm21_60.pdf. Also check out our https://safety.army.mil/drivertrainingtoolbox (AKO login required) for more information.