Don’t Compromise Safety
CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER 2 TED FREEMAN
B Troop 1st Battalion, 6th Cavalry Regiment
Fort Riley, Kansas
Generally, Soldiers join the military at a fairly young age. Therefore, many of them won’t have much experience dealing with tasks or events that could be seen as dangerous. New Soldiers rarely even ask if the task they’ve been given by their peers or supervisors is safe to be performed in the first place. When they do have the courage to ask, the common response is usually, “This is how we’ve always done it.” I’d like to address some issues that stand out in the unmanned maintenance community — a few that may still be common practice in units today. Cutting corners
There are some instances where it is faster and more efficient to do the wrong thing to meet the intent, and that happens all too often when dealing with the Shadow platform. For example, when you need to do a quick engine run and instead of taking the time to place the aircraft on the launcher, which is designed to retain and launch the Shadow, the decision is made to conduct it on the ground instead. There have been instances where units would have Soldiers brace the leading edge of the Shadow with their legs and start the engine. This action is dangerous not only to the Soldiers that are restricting the movement of the aircraft, but also to anyone in the direction of travel the aircraft could potentially take. Unsafe practices
During preflight, there are a few common issues that arise, like when the system notifies you that it is outside of system tolerance. One of these times will be when you are conducting an engine run-up. The shelter will command a series of full-throttle bursts before returning to idle. The system will then notify you if your engine is not falling within the safe operating parameters. When the engine idle is too low or too high, you will need to make adjustments. Due to the close proximity of the propeller to where the adjustments need to be made, the maintainers will be required to cut engines to make the adjustments. What usually happens is the field service representatives or the maintainers will take an Allen key or a fabricated tool with an Allen attachment and, while the engine is still running, make adjustments to the idle. The potential loss of limb is not worth the amount of time that is saved by making adjustments in this manner. Conclusion
These are just a couple of cases where you walk a fine line between following the proper maintenance procedures and the gray area where you can deviate from the standard procedures. At some point, everyone believes they have a better way to do something, but you should submit the proper documentation before attempting to deviate. We need to take our time and continue to train the force with a proactive approach to what right looks like because when we run into a mishap or injury, it will already be too late to prevent it. Awareness needs to be spread to the lowest level so the mistakes of the past don’t impact the future.
There is no way to identify every risk to Soldiers or the organization even using risk mitigation techniques. You cannot stop Soldiers from making poor decisions, but you can reduce the impact on readiness that their actions will have. Take into account that everyone will be operating with a different level of experience and occasionally pull from those experiences to meet the mission’s intent. The after-action reviews will provide a clear picture for everyone to see what lessons learned will benefit or hurt the organization and allow the Army to move forward in developing better safety programs and training procedures.