Dont Forget the Pin!
CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER 2 WILLIAM REID
631st Maintenance Company
Florida Army National Guard
Did you know a $15 cotter pin could stand between you and a tragedy or countless dollars in damage to Army equipment? I do … and here’s how.
After seven days in the field at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, for an exportable combat training capability exercise, a tired group of mess section cooks prepared to move out to the cantonment area and set up operations to feed troops. In a rush, an NCO performed only a cursory look-around of the truck towing a containerized kitchen (CK) trailer and failed to notice the cotter pin was not in place on the pintle. While on his way to cantonment, the NCO made a wrong turn onto an ammo road. Realizing his mistake, he attempted a U-turn by driving onto the uneven roadside. As he re-entered the road, the pintle opened, causing the trailer to overturn.
My recovery team was called to respond to the scene with our wreckers. Once we had the trailer back on its tires, I noticed the cotter pin dangling from the chain and realized it was never put in the pintle. I wondered how this could happen. The NCO’s complacency could have killed all three occupants in the truck! What’s more, my recovery team put ourselves in danger to right the trailer so it could be moved off the road and hauled back. It stands to reason that everybody involved in this accident was tired and failed to notice a fine detail such as the cotter pin not being in place.
A few months later, the maintenance shop where I worked received the trailer to see if we could repair the damage. As I opened the doors, I saw all of the contents inside the CK were destroyed. The trailer was sent to the depot to be rebuilt at a cost of more than $100,000.
Following this accident, my senior NCO and I developed a practice of spot-checking every convoy vehicle towing a trailer to ensure all safety chains and cotter pins were installed correctly. It is such a simple task, as well as part of the preventive maintenance checks and services charts and -10 operator’s manuals, but it often gets overlooked prior to departure.
The lesson learned from my unit’s mishap is no one should take for granted that everything is good to go when you climb into a vehicle. Save yourself the time and trouble of having an accident — and possibly a Soldier’s life — by checking the simple safety systems designed on the vehicle’s towing pintle. This will always remain near and dear to my heart because I saw it first-hand. Thankfully, no one was injured, but since that day, our motto in every formation is, “Don’t forget the pin!”