WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The following Memorial Day message was released by Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Rick West May 27:
"Before we head out for the Memorial Day weekend, I want to stress just how valuable every Sailor and their families are to our great Navy. As you know, Memorial Day weekend kicks off our summer safety season. The summer season brings the potential for increased risk. More people are on the roadways and waterways, more sporting activities occur and more parties are scheduled.
In 2009, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, we lost 24 Sailors; 14 were killed in PMV (personal motor vehicle) mishaps (eight in automobiles and six on motorcycles); two were pedestrians; and there were eight fatalities during off-duty/recreation (half involved drowning).
Navy data continues to show a decrease in PMV fatalities, as a direct result of leadership efforts and the efforts of Sailors, but we still have work to do. Fifty percent of our shipmates who died last summer in automobile mishaps weren't wearing seatbelts. Fifty percent of the riders who died on motorcycles hadn't completed the required training. Over the years, we have lost far too many of our shipmates and their loved ones.
You all know the stories behind these losses; some have used alcohol then got behind the wheel; others traveled without getting the right amount of sleep the night before, and some may have been distracted. We have all heard the recent stories of cell phone usage and texting that has resulted in accidents, but there are so many things that we do that draws our attention away from the issue at hand. In fact, nationally, nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some sort of driver inattention!
But it is not just our own behavior that we need to be aware of; over the years thousands of our shipmates and their family members have died due to the mistakes of other drivers. I expect our chief's mess to take charge of this effort. Nothing is more important than the safety of our Sailors and their families. I expect our chiefs to have face to face conversations with each Sailor before they go on liberty this weekend to raise their awareness.
To help you with these conversations, use the many resources at our disposal via the Safety Center Web site at: www.safetycenter.navy.mil.
I want all of our Sailors to have a plan of success in place and to enjoy this weekend and the summer ahead spending quality time with their families and friends. In order to do this, we need to stop and think; evaluate all of the possibilities and put measures in place to mitigate or eliminate the risk entirely. If our Sailors or their families will be involved in high risk activities, have them make sure that they have all of the necessary training and the proper equipment. They wouldn't jump out of a plane without both the training and a parachute; the same philosophy should apply for any other activity that they plan to participate in. Risk management or ORM (operational risk management) is really nothing more than common sense, and it applies both on and off duty!
Make sure our Sailors minimize their risks by drinking responsibly, use designated drivers and the buddy system; swim only in designated areas; and during the early morning hours, when the likelihood of encountering a drunk or drowsy driver is the greatest, they should all be in a safe place and not on the road.
I wish our Sailors and their families a great holiday weekend. Enjoy your families and some well-deserved down time. But more importantly, may we all have a safe Navy and Marine Corps Summer.
Finally, during this weekend take the time to remember two groups; those that provided the ultimate sacrifice and all of our service members currently standing watch around the globe, they enable us to enjoy the precious freedoms we hold so dear.
For more news from Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, visit www.navy.mil/mcpon/.