Safety Does Not Just Happen

Base Info

Safety Does Not Just Happen

by: Lt. Col. Christopher M. Murray, III MEF/MCIPAC Consolidated Public Affairs Office | .
U.S. Marine Corps | .
published: December 27, 2014

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan --  On October 10th, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 was awarded the Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award for its actions during calendar year 2013. Throughout the year, VMM-265, in conjunction with their light attack, utility and heavy lift detachments, conducted 3,526 accident free flight hours and more than 15,000 hours of maintenance. This was a result of the leadership, supervision, morale, and individual responsibility of the personnel within the squadron. We were deeply honored to receive it, and will continue to strive to be our very collective best.

During 2013, VMM-265 was forward-deployed and embarked on the USS Bonhomme Richard, conducted operations in over seven countries, supported numerous exercises and provided humanitarian assistance disaster relief in the Philippines after Super Typhoon Haiyan. Squadron support covered a spectrum of missions including detachments as small as two aircraft and fourteen people and as large as the entire squadron. The squadron’s success and safety record was due to the dedicated work of every Marine and Sailor in the squadron.

With regards to maintaining high standards and executing a fluid and demanding schedule, VMM-265 is by no way unique. It is similar to other Marine Corps units which must maintain a high state of readiness, while at the same time supporting a high operational tempo. There are numerous requirements on both personnel and aircraft which cause the squadron to focus on multiple events simultaneously while remaining postured to support contingency operations. Despite this busy schedule, throughout 2013, the squadron kept its focus on operational safety.

From the orders and directives put in place by the command, published procedures, supervisors, and buy-in from the individual Marine, the culture of safety is present in VMM-265. Marines make decisions every day that prevent injury to personnel and damage to equipment in dynamic, time-sensitive environments. VMM-265 Marines and sailors analyze every evolution to ensure that they are accepting no unnecessary risk. Flights are conducted in simulators to ensure that procedures and tactics are practiced prior to flights in the aircraft. Marines conducting maintenance follow detailed procedures that are executed with precision. Debriefs after every evolution ensure that even the most successful evolutions serve as an opportunity to learn and improve.

In VMM-265, and all Marine Corps units, a culture of safety is the bedrock of operational excellence. This is especially important in the aviation community where mistakes can have very serious consequences. Each year, time is devoted to review the basic principles of Operational Risk Management through refresher training to emphasize the importance of using these skills in all facets of life, personal and professional. In addition to refresher training, VMM-265 also conducted safety focused training by reviewing numerous case studies of aviation mishaps to better understand and be able to identify the root cause of mishaps. VMM-265 also brings in experts from MCAS Futenma and other agencies to brief the unit on local regulations, available services and the safe conduct of operations during missions and off duty. This training enables aircrew and maintainers to recognize signs and symptoms of a potential mishap to implement controls to prevent the mishap from occurring.

We are fortunate to be equipped with the MV-22 Osprey and in some respects may have a comparative advantage. This aircraft has many triple-redundant systems, including hydraulics and flight computers, with the latest technology available. By focusing on safety VMM-265 contributes to the Osprey having the best safety record in Marine Corps combat aviation. The Pacific theater has tested the aircraft like never before. By constantly stretching the legs for self-deployment and utilizing the increase in mobility the Osprey provides, the employment style of the Osprey is constantly evolving. With safety as an ingrained part of the culture of VMM-265, the squadron was able to execute numerous exercises and detachments with the utmost professionalism and tactical precision. Safety does not just happen, it is because of the aircrew and maintainers of units like VMM-265 who are focused on accomplishing the mission while accepting no unnecessary risks. This culture of daily safe operations keeps our pilots and crew safe, our aircraft safe, and most importantly, our friendly and welcoming community safe as well.

Murray is the Commanding Officer of VMM-265, and an MV-22 pilot himself, with more than 1000 flying hours. He is a 1992 graduate of Kubasaki High School in Okinawa