Too Many Soldiers Getting Run Over By Tanks, Report Says
Mar. 16, 1987
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Army, alarmed by the number of its soldiers who are being run over in their sleep by tanks and other vehicles, has launched a new safety campaign and demanded stricter disciplinary action by officers against troops who ignore safety guidelines.
''Getting run over by a tactical vehicle is not and should not be something soldiers expect to happen - especially when they are sleeping. But happen it does - and too often,'' according a report appearing in Countermeasure, an Army safety publication.
The report said that from March 25, 1984, to Oct. 28, 1986, 22 sleeping soldiers were run over in 19 separate accidents during field training exercises.
''Seven of the soldiers died,'' the report said. ''Eight of the accidents involved tracked vehicles; the other 11 involved wheeled vehicles. In three of the accidents, two soldiers were run over.''
The report concluded that most of the accidents occurred for two reasons - soldiers went to sleep in areas where they shouldn't have, and vehicle drivers failed to send out crew members as walking guides to spot sleeping soldiers.
It found that 74 combat vehicles had been involved in accidents over the past three years because of improper ''ground guiding.'' Those accidents resulted in 71 injuries and 12 fatalities and left $1 million worth of damage in their wake, the report found.
The Army was unable Monday to provide precise figures on accidents involving sleeping soldiers before 1984, but acknowledged that such mishaps appeared to be increasing.
In launching the new safety campaign, Countermeasure included a photograph on its cover showing an armored personnel carrier bearing down on two apparently sleeping soldiers zipped into sleeping bags.
The safety report also included accounts of some recent accidents. Among them:
-After a training exercise, a soldier was told to sleep in a special area marked off by wire and lights. He ignored the order and bedded down some distance away in tall grass, only to be run over by a construction loader that moved through the area without a walking guide. The soldier died of his injuries.
-An armored personnel carrier got lost and ended up driving through a designated sleeping area - primarily because the vehicle's commander failed to dispatch a walking guide. A soldier awoke as the carrier ran over his foot.
-And in another case involving a personnel carrier, the vehicle broke down in the field and the crew was told ''to hold its position awaiting maintenance.'' While waiting, one soldier climbed off the carrier and went to sleep beside it. When another personnel carrier pulled up beside the disabled vehicle, the soldier was crushed.
To counter such mishaps, the safety publication called for a new education campaign to teach all soldiers a series of ''ground-guiding'' hand motions that are recognized by vehicle drivers. The Army's Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., also has issued a notice to officers, urging tough disciplinary action and an end to the labeling of such mishaps as accidents.
''The word 'accident' implies that no one was at fault,'' the notice stated.
''But the truth of the matter is that, in most cases when soldiers injure themselves or their fellow soldiers, they have violated written or oral policies or procedures. Now is the time ... to start calling it like it is and start taking disciplinary action against violators.''