Pinned by a PLS

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - A few years ago, I was deployed to Iraq with the 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry, out of Fort Stewart, Ga. We'd just left our outpost and were moving to set up a new one. Once there, my Soldiers and I got busy inside the headquarters setting up walls, radios and other equipment.

When our first palletized loading systems showed up, they dropped off their first CONEX next to us. A second PLS then showed up and, while we were outside taking a break, we could hear it backing up. Suddenly, we heard Soldiers yelling for the PLS to stop. My only thought was, "This can't be good."

The second PLS was backing up the first CONEX, trying to get as close to it as possible. The noncommissioned officer that was ground guiding it was directly behind the PLS instead of off to the side. Since the driver couldn't see her, he kept backing up and pinned the NCO between the pintle hook and CONEX. He didn't know he had pinned her and kept backing up. Finally, someone got his attention and yelled for him to pull forward. Once he did, several of our NCOs raced in to check on the ground guide. She suffered serious injuries and was medically evacuated out of theater.

For me, this situation was hard because, as Soldiers, we know the right way to do our jobs. On the flip side, we also know the wrong way. Sometimes we take shortcuts because we either want to get the mission completed quickly so we can move on to another task or so we can get home.

I learned some non-negotiable ground-guiding procedures that terrible day. It's my hope that you'll heed my advice and won't have to watch a comrade be nearly crushed to death.

•Always have two ground guides when backing vehicles and equipment. Ensure there's one in the front just off to the side, while the other is off to the side to the rear of the vehicle/equipment.

•Only one ground guide gives signals to the operator. Be sure everyone involved (the operator and ground guides) understands who gives the signals and who receives the signals before any movement is done.

•If sight between the operator and the ground guide making the signal is lost, the operator must stop the vehicle until the signal is again visible or the confusion is cleared up.

I believe in following these simple steps so accidents like the one I witnessed won't happen again. To me, the accident was sad because the NCO's career was over the second she stepped behind the PLS. Always make sure you are doing your job as an NCO and lead by example. Never take shortcuts just to finish sooner. It's better to be late and safe than injured or dead.

From the Ground Directorate

Leaders and supervisors must preserve and protect their Soldiers by enforcing the fundamentals of ground-guiding procedures. Make sure everyone understands the requirements in Army Regulation 385-10, Chapter 11, Prevention of Motor Vehicle Accidents; Training Circular 21-305-20, Manual for the Wheeled Vehicle Operator; and the basic signals to guide vehicle and equipment operators as outlined in Field Manual 21-60, Visual Signals.

Page last updated Fri February 1st, 2013 at 00:00