Very Deadly Events
STAFF SGT. STEVEN SPROWL
Headquarters and Headquarters Company
470th Military Intelligence Brigade
Fort Sam Houston, Texas
Tracked vehicle rollovers may not be as common in today’s Army as they were in the past, but they still occur. Because of the many variants of tracked vehicles in the Army, a rollover can have different consequences. For instance, the M113 and Bradley Fighting Vehicle carry troops into combat. If one those vehicles was to overturn, the number of personnel exposed to the accident becomes greater, which can increase the mishap severity. Tracked vehicles that carry ammunition for artillery and tanks, such as the M992, are at risk for an explosion in a rollover. Either way, tracked vehicle rollovers have the potential to be very deadly events. To better illustrate my point, I’d like to share a story about how some fellow Soldiers in my unit discovered how dangerous and costly a tracked vehicle rollover can be.
While training on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, my buddy and I came across numerous trails and roads that were in bad shape due to erosion and recent heavy rain. Since we were experienced tracked vehicle drivers and familiar with the training area, we didn’t think these slippery roads would be too hard to traverse. As we negotiated a trail back to the motor pool, we came upon a narrow pass with 10- to 15-foot banks.
I was in the lead vehicle that day, driving an armored vehicle launched bridge on an M60 tank frame. This track weighs about 65 tons and stands roughly 20 feet high, 10 feet wide and 20 feet long. I took the pass first and realized my tracks were sliding significantly to the right side of the bank. I quickly pressed the gas and turned toward the left bank to keep from crashing on the right side. I was able to force my way through the pass without rolling the vehicle; however, I popped the track from the sprockets and had to stop on the other side of the pass.
I radioed to the vehicle behind me, an M113 armored troop carrier, to warn the driver of the difficulties I had getting through the pass. However, he was already on his way through. The driver came into the pass too fast for the conditions, heading toward the right bank. Due to the slippery mud, he wasn’t able to turn toward the opposite bank to try and right the vehicle. The 25-ton troop carrier struck the bank at an angle, causing it to flip onto its side. Fortunately, the two Soldiers were trained on rollover drills and walked away without injury. The M113 wasn’t so lucky and sustained significant damage.
This mishap didn’t have to happen, but it brought the issue of tracked vehicle rollovers to the forefront in my unit. While tracked vehicles are designed to provide Soldiers with maximum protection from the enemy, they can be susceptible to rollovers in the right — or wrong — conditions. Mistakes such as driving too closely to the shoulder could cause a road surface to collapse, putting the vehicle at risk to overturn. The rollover risk is even greater on unimproved roads and near canals or other bodies of water. Therefore, crews must ensure they always wear their vehicle restraint systems and practice rollover drills to ensure they are protected in the event their vehicle overturns.
No matter what type of vehicle a Soldier is driving, rollovers are a true threat. Driver training and situational awareness can save lives. As a leader, I will continue to push the importance of driver training to combat the rollover threat and protect the lives of the Army’s most precious resource — its Soldiers. Did You Know?
The U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center developed the Driver’s Training Toolbox to assist commanders, examiners and instructors in the management of driver training. The toolbox provides a central location for the materials necessary to establish and maintain an effective driver training program. Check it out at https://safety.army.mil/ON-DUTY/Drivers-Training-Toolbox.