Two Marines from U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific attended the 18th Executive Safety Board Conference at Headquarters Marine Corps, Quantico, Va., in September to provide feedback and start finding ways to eliminate alcohol-related incidents and traffic accidents that plague the Corps.
The number of Marine fatalities has averaged around 30 for the past three years, and the Marines normally range in ages 17 to 26.
Twenty-seven Marines were killed off the battlefield during fiscal year 2007. Six Marines were killed on motorcycles, three as pedestrians, 16 in their personal motor vehicles and two during personal recreation.
“We must place the same emphasis on eliminating off-duty losses as we do on preventing combat losses,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Goodman, commander, MARFORPAC in a safety message. “Active- involved leadership and responsible decision making are the key.”
Sgt. Samuel Weller and Sgt. Marlene King were two of nine noncommissioned officers who attended the conference designed to help discover new ways to prevent these unnecessary deaths. The rest of the attendees were general officers and sergeants major from throughout the Marine Corps, including Gen. Robert Magnus, assitant commandant of the Marine Corps.
All were tasked to provide feedback from their perspective, said Weller, G-3 plans and operations NCO, MARFORPAC.
Although safety briefs continue, the numbers of fatalities aren’t decreasing, and the Marine Corps is developing new ideas to increase Marines’ safety habits.
“When Marines go to safety briefs, it’s like their bodies immediately go into zombie mode,” said Weller. “They space out and just hope that nobody asks any questions at the end.”
MAFORPAC has formed an NCO Safety Council comprised of five Marines who are creating more effective ways to influence other Marines to make better decisions, such as not drinking and driving or speeding recklessly, according to Weller.
“I think if an NCO got a small number of his junior Marines and peers together and had a more personal talk about safety, it would be more effective,” said Weller.
Other ideas from the safety council include a poster campaign.
“We want to take a comical approach with the posters,” said King, G-3 executive branch NCO, MARFORPAC. “We think that funny slogans and pictures will make a longer lasting impression.
Marines will more likely remember these posters, and hopefully start thinking more about their safety.”
The safety council combined efforts with the graphics section here to create characters for the posters like “Sergeant Safety,” “Corporal Cautious,” “Lance Corporal Liability” and “PFC Problem.”
“The council is working to create funny phrases that will embed in the Marines’ minds,” said King.
The more Marines think about safety and making wise decisions, the less likely they are to become a statistic in a database, according to King.
The need for these extra measures increases when Marines approach or return from deployments, according to King.
“Marines who return from deployment may feel invincible because they survived a war, or they feel like now that they’re out of Iraq or Afghanistan, they can let their guard down a little,” said Weller. “But drinking and driving, motorcycles speeding down a highway, and taking crazy chances with [All-Terrain Vehicles] has to stop.”
The accidents that occur because of these errors in judgment have a nasty aftermath.
“When they die on the side of a highway, it doesn’t just affect them,” said Weller. It affects their families, friends and their brothers and sisters in the Corps.