WASHINGTON (Agencies) : Following two tragic aircraft crashes, the acting commandant of the Marine Corps has announced plans to appoint a general officer to lead the service’s Safety Division next summer.
Currently headed by a colonel, this move will elevate the Marine command to a higher rank, allowing a one-star general to oversee it and ensure a strict commitment to their culture of safety.
Gen. Eric Smith, speaking at the Defense News Conference in Arlington, Virginia, emphasized the significance of having a general officer in this role, stating that there are only 63 general officers in the entire service, which grants them a level of authority and responsibility that is vital for upholding safety standards.
While the general officer will report to the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, this decision underscores the importance of safety within the organization.
As with other branches of the military, the Marine Corps has a limited number of general officer positions, and it remains uncertain where the general officer for the Safety Division will be sourced.
Last week, Gen. Smith called for a comprehensive safety review across the entire Marine Corps following the fatal crashes of an F/A-18D Hornet near Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California and an MV-22B Osprey in Australia, both of which are still under investigation. Units will assess their safety protocols, and junior Marines are encouraged to provide honest feedback without fear of reprisal.
This feedback is expected to be submitted to the Safety Division by October 15. With the addition of the new general officer, the Marine Corps’ Safety Division will expand and take on a structure similar to the Navy’s equivalent division.
Gen. Smith stressed the need to reinforce the Marine Corps’ culture of safety, noting that any deviation from it is highly noticeable. The division will be equipped to address the findings of the safety review from junior Marines and take corrective actions where necessary. This includes ensuring strict adherence to safety protocols across various areas, including weapons handling, vehicle maintenance, aircraft maintenance, and aircraft operation.
Despite concerns surrounding the Osprey’s recent crash and ongoing clutch engagement issues, Gen. Smith expressed confidence in the aircraft’s safety, highlighting that its safety record per 100,000 flight hours is on par with other major platforms. He emphasized that he would ground the Osprey if he believed it to be inherently unsafe, but current evidence does not support such a decision.