No Shortcuts JAVIER RIVERA
321st Civil Affairs Brigade, 350th Civil Affairs Command
United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne)
Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston
San Antonio, Texas
While the vast majority of leaders and Soldiers understand what I’m about to share, many others fail to comprehend this simple fact: Mission accomplishment should never be achieved at the expense of curtailing safety standards. Risk management, enforcement of safety practices and proper planning are as common to our profession as a pair of boots. There are times, however, when certain individuals make a personal decision to bypass the established procedures to save a little bit of time.
Recently, I decided to visit my unit to observe operations as they prepared for a convoy movement to the range. Prior to departing for the afternoon, I made sure to confirm the formation time and location for my early visit the following day. Much to my surprise, as I drove to the location, the first march unit was heading in the opposite direction en route to the range. A quick glance at my watch revealed they were 45 minutes ahead of schedule. This situation immediately made me feel uneasy because rushing to complete a task is often a contributing factor identified during accident investigations.
Upon arriving at the designated location, I immediately made my way toward the remaining vehicles. I quietly observed the convoy commander give his safety briefing while I conducted a visual inspection of the vehicles. I quickly noticed two vehicles were missing fire extinguishers. Also, during the briefing, the convoy commander failed to indicate the convoy traveling speed, catch-up speed and to remind the assistant drivers to enforce the use of seat belts at all times. I patiently waited for him to complete his briefing. When he asked if anyone had questions, I shared my observations, after which he provided the missing information.
While the drivers returned to the motor pool to secure the fire extinguishers, the remaining Soldiers began to load up in the trucks. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed too many Soldiers heading to the rear of one of the trucks. I made my way over there to see what was happening.
As I rounded the corner at the back of the vehicle, I saw the assistant driver directing a Soldier to climb into the cargo area. I counted the number of Soldiers already onboard and realized that with this additional Soldier, they would exceed the recommended personnel capacity for the vehicle. I halted the Soldier and reminded the assistant driver of the maximum capacity. The assistant driver quickly conceded that he was aware of it, but due to the first group’s hasty departure, they now had excess personnel and not enough vehicles to transport them.
I returned to speak with the convoy commander and informed him of the situation. He acknowledged that by rushing the departure of the first vehicles, the remaining number of Soldiers was higher than the number of available seats. After discussing a few possible courses of actions, it was obvious the only viable option to maintain the schedule and avoid unnecessary risks would be for me to transport the additional Soldier in my private motor vehicle. Even by doing so, we still needed to coordinate for the Soldier to be picked up at range control because PMVs are not allowed to enter any of the range areas.
In the end, we were able to complete the necessary coordination and ensure the Soldiers safely reached the range to complete the weapon qualification while making sure the additional Soldier was not exposed to unnecessary risks. This whole experience served as an important reminder to those involved. Even the smallest, most insignificant shortcut can have a detrimental effect on the overall mission and place individuals in situations where the possibility of a mishap is increased rather than mitigated.