By Sgt. Scott Akanewich, 302nd Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentJune 22, 2010
CRANE ARMY AMMUNITION ACTIVITY, Ind. -Before the rigs of Operation Golden Cargo 2010 roll out and over the rural roads of the Midwest, every aspect of them must be gone over with a fine-toothed comb. Fore to aft, stem to stern, they are inspected by trained eyes with years of experience in scrutinizing the minute of details to ensure safe passage to their destinations. This burden falls on the shoulders of a small, elite group of men and women whose station in life is to secure the safety of not only the Soldiers actively engaged in OGC, but also the civilian populace of the towns and cities these convoys rumble through with their combustible cargo.
They are the Safety Police.
"We're all about accident avoidance," said Chief Warrant Officer Melanie Shields, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, safety officer. "Everything from making sure the paperwork is filled out and submitted properly to seeing that the cargo is strapped securely, that's what we do."
One of the biggest bug-a-boos the safety crew continuously came across during the opening days of OGC was the absence of proper safety equipment being employed by the crews loading and unloading the vehicles, said Shields.
"Initially, that was one of our big concerns - making sure everyone involved was wearing the right gear including safety vests, reflective belts and most of all, eye protection," she said. "We constantly make improvements to ensure the Soldiers' as well as the civilians' safety during the mission."
The civilian workforce toiling alongside the Soldiers of OGC are a calming influence amongst the rank-and-file of the hundreds of uniformed personnel conducting these critical convoy missions said Sgt. 1st Class Irvin Ely, safety non-commissioned officer for the 375th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.
"At some point overseas, these Soldiers will be working with civilians, so this is a great learning experience for them, especially for young Soldiers who have yet to deploy," said Ely.
According to Ely, one of the absolute most important aspects of OGC is vigilance once the convoys roll past the gates and into the civilian environment, he said.
"We need to ensure they are safe when they are moving through the cities and towns along their respective routes," said Ely. "This is of the utmost importance."
Another crucial safety base that must be covered is the proper placement of placards in the form of bright orange triangles marked "EXPLOSIVES" on all four sides of the trucks, designating what they are hauling to casual passers-by, said Ely.
"The civilians the convoys encounter out on the roads need to be able to recognize the nature of the loads these trucks are carrying," he said.
John Clark, a civilian safety specialist, is a member of the crew with many moons of experience in this realm of responsibility.
"Safety is number one here," said Clark. "It's always the first item on the agenda at the battle update briefs, which underscores the message we're delivering out here."
Despite a few bumps in the road here and there, everything has been executed to standard, he said.
"There are some things that need to be worked on, but there is a commitment to safety from the top down," said Clark. "Also, the civilians here are highly-experienced in making sure everything is done safely, not only on base, but out on the highways."
First Lieutenant Eliann Carr, 740th Transportation Company, convoy commander, stood before her troops as they performed final checks and readied their rigs for the road on a typical, muggy, Midwestern afternoon.
"We are outstanding," beamed Carr proudly. "Safety is paramount and has to be textbook, along with teamwork, because this is real ammunition we're hauling - no cutting corners. I love my team very much and I'm 100% proud of my Soldiers."
Carr emphasized the chemistry formed between the different elements in making OGC successful, she said.
"It's not about Army Reserve, National Guard, or civilians," Carr said of the workforce swarming about like busy worker bees in these final moments before beginning the day's mission. "It's about the U.S. Army."