Your Attention Please
1ST SGT. TRAVIS L. EVANS
Joint Force Headquarters,
Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment
North Carolina Army National Guard
Raleigh, North Carolina
It only takes one incident to shake up an entire command. The mishap below, which occurred several years ago in my old battalion, sure got the attention of leaders at every level. Commanders, command sergeants major and first sergeants were all scrambling to identify the root cause of the mishap and restore morale in the unit. I wrote this article with the hope that it will help commands emphasize the importance of two basic tasks — conducting preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCS) and developing driver training programs at the unit level.
Indiscipline (a Soldier not wearing his seat belt) and a materiel failure (a faulty tire hub on a trailer) were the factors that caused this government motor vehicle (GMV) mishap during the unit’s convoy back to home station. A driver training program was established at each company; however, the battalion did not have a certified master driver to adequately lead the program, nor were monthly inspections conducted as prescribed by the standard operating procedures. The absence of oversight in the driver training program is not the singular issue that may have prevented this mishap; but establishing a culture of safe drivers and conducting proper PMCS at every echelon could have set a different standard that would have permeated throughout the battalion.
Maintenance at the unit level is important; however, services on equipment plays an even more significant role. You cannot do one without the other, meaning if equipment in the unit has overdue services or if these checks are not conducted to standard, they can result in mishaps. That was the case with this incident. There was a particular maintenance issue due at the direct service level. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to the unit or those Soldiers operating the vehicle, there were deficiencies at a higher maintenance level.
The unit put the trailer in operation after packing all of the personnel gear into it and started their journey back to home station. As they traveled down the interstate, the trailer started to wobble violently due to a faulty tire hub. The wobbling shifted the trailer’s center of gravity, causing the GMV to overturn. One Soldier was seriously injured and another escaped with bumps and bruises. The driver, who possibly was not wearing his seat belt, was ejected from the vehicle. The mishap really brought the command morale down as one would expect, and finger pointing hit the battalion like a tidal wave.
The lesson learned is PMCS is vital to Soldier safety and readiness; but even the best PMCS administered at the lowest level cannot overcome deficient maintenance checks and services at higher echelons of support. The systems of support must work in tandem to capture all deficiencies. A driver training program with oversight would have reinforced the safety procedures when towing trailers, proper speeds, actions on contact, and the use of seat belts and proper personnel protective equipment. I believe the combination of proper PMCS at each level and oversight of the driver training program could have prevented this mishap from occurring.