HAT YAO, Kingdom of Thailand --
Deploying, embedding and ultimately ensuring the safety of the Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit is just the start of what former Corporal Edwin A. Ventura does for the 31st MEU.
Working as the civilian tactical safety officer, “Ace”, as he is commonly called, works tirelessly to ensure the Marines are mindful of safety at all times.
He has deployed with the 31st MEU five times to seven countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region, and spent more than 270 days of the last two and a half years away from his family as a civilian.
“My job is important because it helps the commander in the decision making process to ensure his Marines go into any given mission with the best information that will keep them safe out there,” said Ace.
The tactical safety officer’s main responsibilities are to oversee the commander’s safety program per the Marines Corps’ safety order, assist the commander through incorporation of training and risk management into the Marine Corps planning process, develop unit safety officers, and assist the commander with operational safety.
Although regimental and higher level units sometimes embed a tactical safety officer, Ace’s work with the 31st MEU presents more challenges than other units due to the nature of the MEU’s constant deployments.
“This MEU is so unique in the way it operates and the places it goes. I have to improvise a lot, and do a lot of last minute things,” said Ventura. “The biggest challenge is the mission of this MEU and the way it changes at a moment’s notice requires me to adapt quickly, and adapt my safety plan to those changes.”
According to Ace, an example of one of those challenges is ensuring the Marines of the 31st MEU get their annual safety training. The training is usually conducted before deployments, but because the MEU deploys two to three times per year, Ace must sometimes improvise and conduct the training on ship, or even in foreign countries between training exercises.
Ace believes that his job benefits all the Marines with the 31st MEU, because it keeps the Marines mindful of safety and encourages them to think something over carefully if they believe it might not be safe to do.
“What really helps prevent mishaps is just good common sense and good planning,” said Ace. “Knowing what we are going to be doing, what we are going to be involved with and knowing the dangers associated with those things, we can be prepared for anything as we move forward.”
The efforts of the 31st MEU’s tactical safety officer have been a key enabler in the continued success of the expeditionary unit while conducting regional security operations, according to Col. Andrew R. MacMannis, commanding officer of the 31st MEU.
“He is always where he needs to be making sure the MEU operates in a safe manner. His presence, work ethic, and knowledge make him invaluable,” said MacMannis. “The MEU is always looking to reduce the risk to very complex and inherently dangerous activities. Our safety record could not be matched without him. It would take years to replace him and find someone else who could operate at his level.”
Ace has served with the 31st MEU two and a half years now, and plans to stay longer. According to him, the experience and opportunity to still be around Marines is the best part of the job.
He claims his continued success as a tactical safety officer is, in no small part, thanks to the support he receives from the commander.
“The most important thing about safety with any unit in the Marine Corps is commander support,” said Ace. “Without the commander’s support nothing can be accomplished in terms of safety, so in my case, without Col. MacMannis’s support I couldn’t do everything that I do and the MEU’s safety program wouldn’t be as successful as it is.”
The 31st MEU recently concluded Exercise Cobra Gold 2012 in the Kingdom of Thailand, where Ace’s watchful eye once again ensured the safety of the Marines participating. The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward deployed MEU and remains the nations’ force-in-readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.