A Dangerous Trend
MASTER SGT. CHRISTOPHER REMINGTON
Eighth Army, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion
Headquarters Support Company Safety Office
Camp Humphreys, Korea
I’ve noticed a dangerous trend in the Army — units taking shortcuts when issuing tactical driver’s licenses. It seems some of us have gotten away from the standards and regulations put in place to ensure proper training. Driver training across the military has been an ongoing battle, whether it was a transporter or a military intelligence master driver teaching a course. We need to treat this position as a role, not an additional duty.
There are some incorrect assumptions made throughout the military, especially when it comes to vehicle operations. For example, assuming a Soldier can drive any Army vehicle just because they have a driver’s license or that a senior NCO knows how to ground guide. As an 88M motor transport operator, this is my third tour in Korea. I started as a private in 2001, then as a master driver at the company level in 2010. Currently, I’m the Eighth Army master driver. I’ve seen good and bad practices throughout my career, and now I’m in a position to effect change. I was put in place to inspect many of the battalion driver training programs and found there were a lot of shortcuts being taken. The knowledge was just not there.
For the majority of Soldiers, Korea is just a one-year tour, which allows complacency to occur both on and off duty, especially toward the end of the rotation. While there is a constant flow of Soldiers arriving and departing Korea, the mission keeps going. Therefore, units have to fill tactical vehicle seats with Soldiers in the ranks of E-4 and above. For years Korea has had a qualification program for the truck commander (TC)/vehicle commander (VC) in tactical vehicles because Army Regulation 600-55 left it open for every commander to decide whether the TC/VC needed a license. Korea is different because the majority of our missions are conducted off the installations and require a TC/VC.
After a tactical vehicle fatality over here, we really focused on a few areas. We implemented tactical vehicle roadside inspections (on and off post), our Eighth Army (Korea) master driver course was updated, and the TC/VC certification requirements were enforced and verified with inspectable documentation. With roadside inspections, one of our checks is to verify the TC/VC has a tactical license or an Eighth Army TC/VC card that states that they were properly trained and tested. This training focuses on their individual responsibilities, dispatching procedures, ground guiding and familiarization of local laws.
Throughout the military, ground guiding seems to be a big issue. Korea has attempted to rectify that issue through guidance mandating that, at a minimum, TCs/VCs are qualified, from generals and below. This has been a successful program because it makes the commands put an emphasis on their personnel to check, verify and conduct pre-combat checks (PCCs)/pre-combat inspections (PCIs) within their organizations as well as the repercussions that come with possible inspections from their higher headquarters.
When conducting these roadside inspections, I find that a lot of the drivers, normally E-3 and below, become motivated. They know their vehicle is good because they have checked and rechecked all of their equipment and documentation prior to movement. This is where the Army as a whole should be. Unfortunately, sometimes you will come across a Soldier who was in a hurry and forgot to do the basic checks.
Since we started the roadside inspections, there has been a decrease in mishaps. This holds everyone accountable and it’s been making everyone go back to the basics of PCCs/PCIs, whether they’re traveling 10 minutes down the road or across the Korean peninsula. Not only is this helping the Soldiers and civilians in Korea, but also installations in the United States. There have been numerous Soldiers leaving Korea who implement this TC/VC program and roadside inspection checklist at home station. This, in turn, helps ensure the Army maintains “Readiness Through Safety.”