ARLINGTON, Va. — Young Marines returning from a quick, successful war may be feeling superhuman, and could take risks that would kill them.
So Corps leaders are taking steps to make sure Marines do better than they did after the 1991 Gulf War, and stay safe.
“We’re a victim of our own success,” said Lt. Col. Benjamin Moody, executive assistant for Marine Corps Safety, referring to the training Marines undergo to become fine-tuned warriors and the swift defeat of the Iraqi military with relatively few U.S. casualties.
“Their perception of risk will be changed by this,” Moody said. “They already go out and think they’re invincible. We teach them they are capable of doing anything. … And we’ve seen, they’ll come home with a different attitude. The success will mean they’ll be willing to accept greater risks because they were so successful in the war.”
About 100 Marines die each year in off-duty accidents. “That’s a needless loss of life, and it’s awful if you think about it,” he said. “We can’t afford to needlessly lose 100 Marines a year.”
The “greatest challenge,” as Moody puts is, are male Marines between 18 and 26 who account for 72 percent of the Marine Corps population, but 83 percent of off-duty fatalities.
The Navy and Marine Corps is taking a “multipronged attack on this … to reconstruct the force when they come back,” tackling messages from safe driving to responsible spending of extra money they’re likely to have, getting reacquainted with families and dealing with stress.
There are several messages in the making. The Corps received permission to film a safety video to the lyrics of rock band Bare- naked Ladies’ “Tonight Is The Night I Fell Asleep At the Wheel.”
Marines will have available to them more money since most have been unable to spend while away, and extra earnings for having been in a combat zone.
“They come back and buy the fastest car, the biggest motorcycle, whatever. We want someone to be there to them make sound financial judgments, someone to remind them how to manage their money.”
Moody wants powerful messages with resonating images.
One under consideration is a shot of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall, and the caption: “There are no memorials for Marines who die in car crashes.”