Kentucky Guardsman has an eye for safety

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Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Tressler, 138th Fires Brigade UPAHR

Kentucky Guardsmen Col. Ron Turner, 138th Fires Brigade commander, and Command Sgt. Major Joey Simpson, 138th Fires Brigade command sergeant major, praises Spc. George Sanchez, 2138th Forward Support Company, performance during the unit's annual training in Fort Chaffee, Ark. (photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Tressler, 138th Fires Brigade)

NOTE:  Each week kentuckyguard.com publishes stories by Kentucky National Guard unit public affairs historian representatives, also known as UPAHRs.  This is an additional duty taken on by a Soldier or Airmen with the intent of telling their unit’s story.  This is one such story ….

FORT CHAFFEE, Ark. – Soldiers follow orders. Let’s rephrase that, Soldiers better follow orders. Like Jack Nicholson’s character, Colonel Nathan R. Jessup, in the 1992 hit movie “A Few Good Men” says, “we follow orders or people die.”  You could also say, “we follow orders in the 138th Fires Brigade because safety always comes first!”

But seeing the point to all these measures is sometimes lost on the Soldiers at times.

You know the routine right? From risk assessments to safety briefs. From drink water to your battle buddy covering your movements.

How about this one: Protective eye wear must be worn on the ranges.

Such is the case with Spc. George Alberto Sanchez of the 2138th  Forward Support Company.

It was a normal, ahem, training day at Fort Chaffee, about 105 degrees and muggy with lots of sunshine. This is when Sanchez took up a good firing position behind the big gun on the M240 live fire range. Dozens of Soldiers had already gotten up to the gun and fired of hundreds of rounds without incident.

Sanchez wouldn’t be so lucky.

As Sanchez squeezed the trigger and started to get the thrill of firing the loud, powerful weapon of choice for almost all machine-gunners, it happened. A “cooked round” detonated right into his face. A “cooked round” is most commonly a round that prematurely detonates due to thermal conditions in the surrounding environment and not from the gun itself.

Luckily, as there should be, a medic was close by and administered immediate first aid and Sanchez was transferred to the local hospital where he was cleared and sent back for training.

His protective eye wear had saved his vision. His only injuries were some cuts and scrapes to the face.

“I was really lucky, I know that. I’m so glad I had my protective eye wear,” said Sanchez. “I like my sight and I’m not sure I would still have it if I wasn’t wearing that protection.”

“There is a reason we have all these protective measures, and that’s to take care of our Soldiers,” said Command Sgt. Major Joey Simpson, 138th Fires Brigade.

Seeing the point behind protective eye wear has never been more clear to Sanchez or his fellow Soldiers now.

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