NAME WITHHELD BY REQUEST
A major component of any training, military or civilian, is risk reduction. The only way for it to be effective is to implement risk management and not get careless. Years ago, my unit had an incident that could have turned fatal. All names are being withheld for privacy reasons.
The unit, as it had many times before, was conducting a wide array of weapons training. This particular incident happened at the conclusion of M240B qualification. It had been a long day and everyone was ready to get back for chow, including the range officer in charge (OIC) and range safety officer (RSO). Due to the rush, the Soldiers were hurried off the range and proper weapons clearing procedures weren’t followed.
Fast forward to the following month at drill, where weapons were assigned for additional cleaning. A staff sergeant, who was the RSO for the previous month’s range, signed out an M240B. Prior to cleaning the weapon, he conducted a function check and fired a round into the drill hall floor. Everyone was stunned. This weapon, which was on the range the month before, had been sitting loaded in the arms room!
Let’s follow this weapon’s trail. When coming off the firing line, not only should it have been checked by the firer, but also by a safety on the line and an additional safety clearing weapons off the range. None of those checks happened. It was then signed into the arms room without being checked that it was clear. A month later, it was signed back out and not checked.
This incident never should have happened — and would not have had proper procedures been followed. The OIC’s and RSO’s main job is to ensure a range operates safely. Nothing, like getting back for chow, should ever take precedence over that.
My unit’s close call was a prime example why safety can never be taken for granted. This hazard was identified on every risk assessment for range day, yet the controls weren’t implemented. There were multiple times it could have been avoided, but carelessness prevailed. Controls are not just a good idea placed on a piece of paper; they save lives. This incident easily could have been fatal — and more easily avoided had the identified risk controls been enforced.