Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twetnynine Palms Calif. --
Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 7 left their headquarters building on the morning of Jan. 16 for a battalion run around the Combat Center.
The Marines expected nothing out of the ordinary. They would yell cadences for motivation and finish together a few miles down the road, but they were taken by surprise as they approached 14th Street, where a car was turned over on the side of the road and three Marines were laying in the dirt.
Fortunately, it was not a real accident. The scenario was set up by CLB-7’s command in coordination with the Combat Center’s Fire Department and the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department as a way to teach a lesson to the Marines about the importance of safe and sober driving. It was a break from the usual briefings and gave the Marines a look at what they believed to be a real accident.
“We decided to give a real strong attention gainer to get our message across about safety and our conduct on the road during regular working hours and off-duty hours,” said Master Sgt. Devron Gray, operations chief, CLB-7. “Awareness is the key. When you are aware of something it pushes your thought process to think about what you’re doing before you do it. It’s differently a huge factor.”
The scenario started out like a normal run, with the exception of a few fire trucks and police cars using their sirens and lights as they passed the Marines on their run. But as the run progressed down Gillespie Road, it became more apparent there was something wrong further ahead.
The scene of the accident was surrounded emergency vehicles and car debris scattered on the road. A humvee stood upright with its front bumper attached to the side of an upside down car. The trashed vehicle had three Marines covered in fake blood laying halfway out the windows, simulating the casualties.
“The scenario was an accident between a tactical vehicle and [privately owned vehicle],” Gray said. “There was one deceased person and two were critically injured.”
The fire and sheriff’s department treated the scene as a real scenario, as CLB-7 Marines approached the area. They provided medical attention to the injured, carried all three away on stretchers, inspected the car and the area, then began ripping the car apart using the Jaws of Life, everything that would occur had the accident been real.
CLB-7 Marines stood circled around the crash site speechless. As they got a closer look, they recognized the three casualties as members of their battalion and were close enough to see the blood was fake.
Once the spell was broken, unit commanders stepped out from behind the humvee and circled the Marines around them to explain the situation and the purpose.
The desert is a dangerous place to drive and Highway 62 has many accidents, often similar to the scenario set up for CLB-7 Marines, according to Deputy Curtis Kolb, San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department. Many avoidable incidences, such as falling asleep at the wheel or speeding, have claimed the lives Marines.
“You guys are in a dangerous job,” Kolb said, addressing the Marines. “When you’re deployed your family knows they might that phone call that something has happened to you. What you do is honorable. So when we have to make death notification that their loved ones have been killed in a car accident like this, it’s an unbelievable tragedy.”