ARLINGTON, Va. — With the Marine Corps facing a spike in off-duty accidents, all Marines must now sign a pledge promising to be safe before going on leave.

“Essential to our mission, I pledge to maintain my commitment with a constant display of honor and professionalism,” reads the pledge. “I will plan ahead, minimize risks to my safety and return from leave prepared to continue ‘the fight.’ ”

The new policy, announced in a Corps-wide message, also will require immediate supervisors to swear they are confident their Marines will carry through on their promise.

The idea, officials say, is to raise safety awareness, help Marines remember they’re Marines 24-7 — even while on leave — and highlight accountability.

“This forces the onus of responsibility down to the individual Marine, holding him or her accountable for their actions,” said Lt. Col. Brad Cantrell, a top Marine Corps safety officer.

The new “Leave Pledge” comes after 55 Marines have died in off-duty mishaps over the past 12 months.

“The toll these accidents have taken in lives and on operational readiness was a major topic of discussion” among a recent gathering of general officers, according to the policy message, signed by Assistant Commandant Gen. W.L. Nyland.

Returning from the meeting, Marine Forces Atlantic commander Lt. Gen. Martin Berndt tasked five of his Marines to come up with an idea that might help curb the problem.

Taking a page from the playbook used by high schools to fight prom night drinking, the four corporals and a sergeant crafted the leave pledge.

“We wanted something that would make Marines think,” said Cpl. Terrence Harrell, one of the five tapped by Berndt. “Everyone knows when your name is on the bottom line, you’ve got to stand by it.”

Harrell said he couldn’t forget a buddy on Okinawa who was nearly killed a few years ago in an off-duty car accident during a 72-hour pass when a drunken driver slammed into his car. The only reason the Marine survived, Harrell said, was because he remembered to wear his seat belt. But many forget.

Safety briefings now have become so commonplace, he said, for many Marines “it just goes in one ear and out the other. We wanted this pledge to be a wake-up call, not the death of a fellow Marine.”

Their pledge was so well received by the brass, Marine Corps commandant Gen. Mike Hagee decided to adopt it Corps-wide.

“The implementation of this policy will further emphasize the importance of safe and professional conduct by all Marines, both on and off duty, and is a vitally important tool for improving safety awareness and preserving overall combat readiness,” Nyland wrote.

The Leave Pledge


I, (Rank, Full Name), recognize the contribution I make to my fellow Marines, Sailors and Civilian Marines of (Unit Name), my brothers and sisters throughout the Marine Corps and Marines and Sailors deployed in defense of freedom around the world. Essential to our mission, I pledge to maintain my commitment with a constant display of honor and professionalism.

I will plan ahead, minimize risks to my safety and return from leave prepared to continue “the fight.”

(Signature of Marine)


I, (Rank, Full Name), have confirmed that (the requesting Marine) has an acceptable plan for leave and fully understands the valuable contribution every Marine makes to our nation. I am confident that he/she will take the necessary steps to minimize risks and bring honor to our Corps and country while enjoying this well deserved break from the daily routine. I recommend approval.

(Signature of the first Marine in approval chain)

Source: Marine Corps

Corps struggling to limit accidents

Marine Commandant Gen. Mike Hagee is charging all Marines to do more to reduce accidents — both on duty and off.

Less than halfway through the fiscal year, the Corps already has failed to meet accident prevention goals in one category and is tracking to go over in the rest, Hagee wrote in a recent Corps message.

“We have a responsibility to become actively engaged in stopping the reckless and thoughtless behavior that leads to mishaps. We need to take charge and assume responsibility for managing risk and preventing future mishaps,” wrote Hagee.

In what he called a midyear recap, Hagee said the Corps is struggling to reduce “Class-A Mishaps,” safety-speak for accidents that result in a fatality, permanent total disability, or $1 million or more of total property damage.

Among the goals and where the Corps stands so far:

Off-duty — Goal: 32 Class-A accidents or less. So far: 23.Ground operational — Goal: 10 or less. So far: 15Aviation – Goal: 7. So far: 3“By far, our greatest challenge is preventing vehicle mishaps both on-duty and off-duty,” wrote Hagee.

“At headquarters, we use mishap numbers and rates to gauge our success at mishap reduction,” wrote Hagee. “However, this is not just about reducing mishap numbers and rates. It is about leadership and taking care of each other as Marines.”

— Jon R. Anderson

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now