MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Summertime in North Carolina means weekend trips to the beach, cookouts and cold drinks for many Marines. Statistically, however, the warmer climate also brings with it higher risks and safety concerns.
To address these issues, the 2nd Marine Division held its annual unit-wide safety fair here, June 22, to cover topics such as motorcycle and recreational vehicle safety, fire prevention, and drinking and driving.
“It’s essential to raise the awareness level in the division during this time, especially with the Fourth of July weekend coming up,” said Ronald Sarmento, 2nd Marine Division’s safety and environmental compliance officer. “Today, we’re trying to focus mostly on what the number one killer of Marines is these days, and that’s private motor vehicle and motorcycle accidents.”
Local vendors such as Harley Davidson were present at the fair to give Marines and sailors instruction on operating these vehicles, along with the protective clothing and equipment needed to do so.
According to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., motor vehicle and traffic regulations Base Order P5560.2L chapter 3, Personal Protective Equipment, certain PPE is mandatory for all Marines riding a motorcycle on or off Marine Corps installations.
Marines must have a fastened helmet, shatter resistant goggles or a full-face shield attached to the helmet, a reflective vest, long sleeve shirt and pants, hard sole boots and full-fingered gloves or mittens, according to the order.
Sarmento stated that keeping motor and recreational vehicle safety in mind is a top priority, as the 2nd Marine Division has lost four personnel in vehicular mishaps since October 2005. These were due largely in part to operator error, he added.
Drinking and driving was another theme emphasized during the safety fair. Local law enforcement officials brought in “beer goggles” for Marines to put on and drive a golf cart through an obstacle course laden with cones. These glasses distorted the service members’ depth perception and focus, thus resulting in several cones crushed underneath the impaired drivers’ wheels.
Additionally, personnel attempted to stand on one foot and keep their balance as they wore the goggles.
“It really throws your depth perception off, your response to turns, and everything gets blurry,” explained Sgt. Brandon Malkowsky, communications chief for Battery I, 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment. “It’s a lot more difficult than you might think, standing with one leg out and trying to keep your balance.”
Malkowsky said he believes it is essential for junior Marines to undergo this realistic training so they learn the detrimental effects of alcohol without actually drinking.
Another summer safety topic the fair addressed included fire prevention and awareness. Lee
Capehart, a fire inspector with Camp Lejeune’s fire department, and several fire fighters manned a display nearby allowing Marines to simulate extinguishing a raging blaze.
“Fire safety should be a year-long theme that we emphasize, but there are particular safety concerns we have to pay attention to during the summer,” Capehart said. “You have to pay attention to things like where you hold cookouts. If you’re cooking at your home, you want to make sure you put the ashes in a noncombustible metal container and stay at least six to ten feet from your residence.”
Marines living in the barracks, however, must maintain at least 50 feet of distance between their quarters and the grill.
To round off the safety training, the Semper Fit girls held physical endurance competitions. Many Marines showcased their push-up skills as they received instruction on drinking plenty of water while exercising.
“Hydration is a big thing we emphasize during the summer months, especially within the division,” Sarmento stated. “(Thus far,) most commanders and small unit leaders have been really good about paying attention to keeping their Marines hydrated in the field and while conducting strenuous physical training.”
Whether Marines learned something new about hydration, vehicle safety or fire prevention, Sarmento said this annual training is a great way for the troops to rethink how they operate and keep some basic safety principles in mind, on and off the job.
“I think if we reach out and make contact with just one Marine, and they take it home with them, then I think we hit the target on safety awareness.”