Guiding to Safety
June 28, 2012
As a new division safety manager on my first deployment, one of the first lessons I learned was to visit the surgeon's and provost marshal's offices before each battle update brief. As a safety manager, you never want the commander to ask you about an injury or accident you don't know about. Reviewing injuries treated by the medical staff and accidents reported in the military police blotter will provide you with information to analyze hazards in your area of operations. This information was invaluable to me as I prepared to brief commanders during the nightly BUB. I was able to talk about incidents and recommend what measures/controls we needed to implement in our efforts to prevent future mishaps.
After the first few weeks of reviewing the MP blotter, a trend began to develop. The failure to use ground guides was causing minor fender benders with Army motor vehicles as they maneuvered. In hopes of reversing this trend, I stepped up my efforts and provided additional information related to ground-guiding procedures. Unfortunately, our first major accident was caused by failure to use a ground guide.
A wheeled convoy mission began at 7 a.m., traveling a route that included traversing an armored vehicle-launched bridge over a mountain pass, and concluded with a return over the same route after completing the mission. The convoy consisted of four HMMWVs and one HEMTT tanker. The first leg of the mission was completed successfully; but on the return trip at 8:40 p.m., complacency and indiscipline resulted in a fatal accident. Two HMMWVs crossed the AVLB without a problem. However, as the HEMTT attempted to cross, the driver noticed that because of the turn radius and the width of the bridge, he could not make the turn. He made the decision to back up and make a second attempt to line up with the bridge. As he drove onto the bridge, the HEMTT's left-rear wheels slid off, causing the tanker to tumble into a deep gorge and land upside down. The driver only fractured his shoulder, but the assistant driver was killed.
The driver's failure to use a ground guide caused the accident. The day before, a different HEMTT crew completed the same type of mission. It took them four attempts to cross the bridge, but with the use of ground guides, they made it safely. In the Army, we must maneuver equipment in all types of operations, including uploading/downloading equipment on rail cars, lining up for convoys, movement in motor pools and maneuvering on unimproved roads, mountain passes and narrow roads. Ground guiding procedures must be included in your unit's training and used to ensure the personnel and equipment are maneuvered safely.
Keep the following tips in mind when conducting ground-guiding operations:
• Ensure drivers understand they must immediately stop if they lose sight of the ground guide or don't understand a signal.
• Make sure everyone understands the basic signals to control vehicle drivers (don't forget about flashlight signals) from Field Manual 21-60, Visual Signs.
• Position front ground guides to the left front of vehicles. Never allow a ground guide to walk directly in the vehicle's path. Ground guides and drivers must understand this.
• When using two ground guides, they must maintain visual contact with each other. The front ground guide must stop the vehicle if he or she loses sight of the rear ground guide.
• Ensure the ground guide, not the vehicle commander, is in charge of the vehicle. Whenever the vehicle is under the control of a ground guide, the only command the vehicle commander should issue to the driver is "stop."
Efficient vehicle operations and safety of personnel depends on clear, accurate and secured communication among ground Soldiers and through the use of arm and hand signals. For standardized visual signals, check out FM 21-60, GTA 17-02-091 (Visual Signals Armor Fighting Vehicle) and ground guide materials currently posted in Driver's Training Toolbox. Convoy and Ground Materials are also located in the toolbox. Visit https://safety.army.mil/drivertrainingtoolbox for more information.
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Did You Know?
Army Regulation 385-10, The Army Safety Program, provides detailed guidance on safe motor vehicle operation. Chapter 11-4 outlines the requirements of using a ground guide. It states:
c. Assistant driver scheduling guidance.
(1) If more than 10 hours are needed to complete operations, commanders will assign to each vehicle an assistant driver who is qualified to operate the vehicle.
(2) Assistant drivers for other operations will at a minimum, be familiar with the vehicle operations and trained for ground guide duties. Other operations that require assistant drivers include--
(a) More than 4 hours of the mission are expected to be during darkness.
(b) The need to wear mission-oriented protective posture equipment is anticipated.
(c) Night vision goggles will be worn during the mission.
(d) Travel over unfamiliar terrain will require detailed en route navigation.
(e) Use of a ground guide is anticipated and required.
(f) Deteriorating weather or road conditions are expected.
(g) High-value or mission-critical weapons systems or equipment is being transported.
(h) Other unusually difficult mission conditions are expected.
h. Ground guides. Ground guides are required when wheeled and tracked vehicles are backed, or when moved within an assembly area or motor pool.
(1) Ground guides will be properly trained in accordance with FM 21--60, Visual Signals; TC 21--305-20, Manual for the Wheeled Vehicle Operator and TC 21--306, Tracked Combat Vehicle Driver Training.
AR 385-10, Chap. 11--10. Army combat vehicle safety guidelines
d. Bivouac and assembly areas.
(4) Operators will move ACVs in motor pools, parking areas, cantonments, assembly, and sleeping areas only when a dismounted ground guide assists. When visibility is reduced, guides will use flashlights to direct vehicles. The TC or VC, driver, and dismounted ground guide will maintain visual contact at all times.