CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq - Getting deployed to a foreign country may be an interesting experience.

Driving around the sprawling compounds that make up Victory Base Complex could enhance that experience. Historic structures, palaces and icons abound here and beyond the confines of the base.

The rules of the road don't apply here right' Wrong. Safe driving is paramount here, especially while deployed. Whether driving a Mine Resistant Armor-Protected [MRAP] vehicle, a humvee, or a non-tactical vehicle, the rules of the road and safety guidelines are in place here to ensure everyone gets from point A to point B safely.

"We're lucky because of the size of VBC," said Staff Sgt. Michael James, a military police officer and traffic supervisor with the 143rd Military Police Detachment, Multi-National Corps-Iraq. "Major accidents don't happen often here. There are usually about six or seven minor accidents a week," said James, a Montana National Guardsman who is from Glendive, Mont.

The presence patrols that the MPs do around VBC also factor in the amount of vehicle accidents that occur, according to James.

"The down-sizing of forces in the area can change all that," James added. "There could be a spike in safety violations or accidents as more Soldiers come in from outposts that have closed."

Safety doesn't just happen. The MPs also conduct traffic surveys to determine the safety of the roads and make driving around VBC safer. The VBC Provost Marshall's office circulates safety reports that are intended to remind drivers and bicyclists about the rules of the road and safety guidelines that need to be followed. Ensuring that your vehicle is safe to drive by conducting preventative maintenance checks and services [PMCS] before and after also helps.

Safety, however, begins with the Soldier on that bike or behind the wheel of the vehicle, not with the MPs patrolling the roads. Large commercial trucks, hulking MRAPs, convoys of humvees, and the endless number of non-tactical sport utility vehicles navigate the network of roads each day. Potholes, dust and gravel can sometimes make for a treacherous commute.

"Soldiers and civilians need to have situational awareness when they are driving or riding their bikes," said James. "They need to ensure they have enough time to get to their destination and be aware of what other drivers are doing." According to James, the majority of traffic violations are due to speeding.

"What Soldiers practice here in Iraq is what they'll do back home," said Command Sgt. Maj. Rory Malloy, 1st Cavalry Division and Multi-National Division-Baghdad. "Being careless here can take one more person off the battlefield when each Soldier is critical during the down-sizing," said the Campbellsburg, Ind. native.

Driving around VBC is a privilege that can be taken away. With the point system that the MPs use, you could be arrested and your vehicle impounded after amassing six points in violations while driving. Ensure that you're aware of the conditions of the roads and be vigilant about what's happening around you.

"It's really selfish of a person to behave carelessly and without discipline and not make it home because they were driving recklessly and we're losing more Soldiers through accident-related events than in combat," said Malloy.

Safety is everyone's responsibility here on base and the rules of the road and the safety guidelines that the MPs enforce are there to ensure that everyone serving here gets back home safely.

Page last updated Wed August 19th, 2009 at 17:05