MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. --
The 6th Marine Corps District was presented the Group II : 2013 Marine Corps Ground Safety Award, May 9 at Barrow Hall by Brig. Gen. Lori Reynolds, the commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and Eastern Recruiting Region.
The district was recognized for their significant contributions and accomplishments in the field of safety, mishap prevention, and force preservation for the fiscal year 2013.
The Marine Corps Ground Safety Award is presented to commands that have established the most outstanding safety program. Criteria for the award include safety budget expenditures, command population demographics, mishap reduction figures and operational risk management.
The 6th Marine Corps District took a proactive approach to increasing safety and reducing mishaps across the board throughout fiscal year 2013. One of the most notable of the district’s efforts was the command’s approach to minimizing sexual assault and misconduct. Early in 2013, the district rolled out a campaign dubbed, “Operation Restore Vigilance”, which included a policy aimed at safeguarding both recruiting personnel and Marine applicants from sexual assault and misconduct. The campaign instituted changes to the way recruiting staff conducted business with potential Marine applicants and poolees. Most significant was the institution of a “two-person integrity” rule eliminating isolated, one-on-one contact with applicants of the opposite sex and recruiters.
Changes were also implemented to safeguard communications between recruiters and applicants. Other efforts to increase safety included the standardization of staff daily briefs and debriefs, increasing awareness up and down the chain of command of all operations being conducted within the numerous recruiting stations. Additionally, increased screening of all male and female applicants was initiated and monthly written climate surveys are now distributed and reviewed.
The 6th District’s Operation Restore Vigilance campaign was regarded by many as taking significant steps to deter sexual assault and misconduct and even garnered attention from the Department of the Navy Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office where it was identified as a “best practice” in a report from the Secretary of the Navy to the Secretary of Defense.
The commanding general said in her speech when presenting the award that the 6th District’s approach to sexual assault prevention and safety represented a positive cultural shift for the Corps as a whole in its efforts to thwart sexual assault and misconduct. Reynolds said the initiative will continue to have cultural impacts to Marines at every stage of their career from the point of accessions to the most seasoned Marines.
Those sentiments were mirrored by many of the recruiting station commanders throughout the district who said one of the keys to success in shifting the way the institution approaches safeguarding its personnel begins with the first contact from a recruiter.
“I think it is absolutely imperative that they have a clear understanding of what the commander expects of them from the start, as Marines, as leaders, as examples and ambassadors of the Marine Corps in the public”, explained Maj. Michael Hays, the commanding officer of Recruiting Station Montgomery. “It ensures the Marines within the district are doing the right things, setting the right examples, by doing things ethically, morally, and legally correct.”
Significant safety achievement was also accomplished in the area of work-related vehicle accident reductions throughout the year. The accomplishment was no small task for the district which consists of more than 800 personnel stretched out across eight recruiting stations spanning an area of operations that covers nearly 363 thousand square miles throughout the Southeastern United States. The district developed a comprehensive ground safety and safe-driving initiative which included vehicle maintenance, training, supervision and accountability.
“I think we do a good job of pointing out potential problems,” said Gunnery Sgt. Todd Cerny, the safety chief for the 6th Marine Corps District. “We keep a close eye on vehicle use and safety issues throughout the district to identify potential issues and correct them before they become a mishap or a problem.”
Though many of the district’s initiatives implemented throughout 2013 led to increased safety across the district, the lynchpin to success on the whole could be attributed to basic Marine Corps leadership and the development of a “culture of accountability”, in which every Marine understands their responsibility for enforcing and complying with the district’s safety policies.
“A key component is to lead with firmness, fairness, dignity, and compassion, said Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Jones, the sergeant major of Recruiting Station Ft. Lauderdale. “You also have to lead from the front. You have to live your life above reproach”.
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