***image1***Facing so many things that could possibly go wrong, members of the 2-502nd Aviation Regiment “Pirates” continue to find the right way to complete their mission safely.
The 21st Theater Support Command unit, based at Coleman Barracks in Mannheim, provides the only rotary-wing strategic air and port movement capability in U.S. Army Europe and has moved more than 1,000 military aircraft by air, sea and barge without an accident since August 2000, according to Chief Warrant Officer 4 Robert Boazman, the unit’s safety officer.
Additionally, the unit provides aviation intermediate maintenance and depot-level support throughout the European theater.
Because of the unit’s safety record, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston recently presented the unit with the Sergeant Major of the Army Safety Award, making it the first unit in Europe to be paid such an honor.
The award is an impact award intended to support and bolster Army safety and to recognize “pockets of excellence” or best practices being used in the field.
“The Sergeant Major of the Army Safety Award is special because we’ve done something that is recognized at the (Department of the Army) level, but also because we are the first in USAREUR to receive this award,” Chief Boazman said.
A closer look at the 2-502nd’s safety record reveals that its leaders have instilled a culture of safety.
The results are a laundry list of accomplishments that include: never losing a Soldier in a privately owned vehicle accident since the unit’s inception in 1996, no DUI/DWI incidents since March 2000 and no Class A – Class C military ground accidents since October 2002.
“We’ve had great commanders in this unit who know what it means to have a good safety program, and they have relied on each and every one of us to be safe,” Chief Boazman said. “Just to have had no DUIs for the last four years is to say, ‘(Gen. B.B. Bell, USAREUR commander,) you can be relieved to know 2-502nd has your back, and we’re following your safety standards.’”
Although the 2-502nd comprises only 28 Soldiers, its size doesn’t diminish its considerable safety accomplishments.
“Granted, our battalion is small, but we are a highly professional group,” said Staff Sgt. Chad Eades, battalion safety NCO. “We have personnel with an abundance of experience in port and barge operations. When we get new people, we immediately put them in the mix of things with training.”
Transporting aircraft poses an increased risk for accidents, not to mention the cost of damages. Each aircraft costs several million dollars. In a recent port-to-fort operation, the unit loaded two AH-64 Apache and eight UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters on a barge headed for Antwerp, Belgium.
The helicopters will then be shipped back to their assigned unit in the United States.
“The danger multiplies at the barge site,” Sergeant Eades said. “There are so many things that come into play – from the weather, to water safety because there is nothing to stop you from falling over into the water except your situational awareness.”
It was Sergeant Eades who accepted the award on behalf of the unit from Sergeant Major Preston during his October visit of Europe. “That was a great honor. We have to continue doing the things we’ve done in the past to maintain our level of safety,” Sergeant Eades said. “Communications is the key. We use command information, safety briefs and meetings to incorporate safety into everything we do.”
Safety award nominations can be forwarded through the respective major command’s sergeant major’s office.