CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (NNS) -- An organizational culture of safety-mindedness and a commitment to mishap reduction earned Assault Craft Unit FIVE (ACU-5) the 2019 Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Shore Safety Award in the Fleet Operational Support Unit category, April 22, 2020.
The annual CNO Shore Safety Award recognizes individual commands’ outstanding achievements in safety and occupational health. ACU-5 excelled in their implementation of the safety management system, reducing mishap trends and costs while demonstrating strong safety leadership. The CNO recently announced the 2019 recipients of the Navy’s top award for exceptional safety achievements.
The ‘Swift Intruders’ of ACU-5 are involved in inherently dangerous operations including the high-speed transport of troops and cargo from amphibious assault ships over-the-horizon to shore landing sites, and require a fine tuned eye for safety, and mishap mitigation at all levels. An all hands safety effort by the ‘Swift Intruders’ directly contributed to 4,759 safe operating hours across 661 Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) missions in 2019 with a 20 percent decrease in overall mishaps and a 54 percent reduction in work-related, Class C and below mishaps compared to 2018. This endeavor would not have been attainable without the workforce’s safety efforts in an extremely fast-paced operational environment.
“Receiving the 2019 Shore Safety Award recognizes our commitment to safety and the hard work we have done to improve our safety practices,” said Capt. Chris Nelson, commanding officer ACU-5. “I’m proud that the CNO has recognized our command for its exceptional safety record, but more importantly I’m proud that our team exemplifies a culture of safety every day.”
Established in 1983, ACU-5 is a self-sustained unit located on a 114-acre facility onboard a Marine Corps Base that houses 34 buildings across shore and sea-components including a control tower, eight hangars, a Navy Capital Working Fund Supply Warehouse, a 100,000-gallon fuel storage-and-supply facility, a HAZMAT storage and collection center, and a 50-acre flight apron. ACU-5 is a unique command. It is home to 32 Navy hovercraft and a close-knit team of over 600 Sailors and 30 Civilians that train, maintain, repair, and operate the LCAC. Every single member of the organization is empowered with a safety mindset.
“With around-the-clock operations and depot-level maintenance, keeping our personnel safe is a top priority for ACU-5”, said Lt. Kathleen Ortega, ACU-5 safety officer. “The command actively promotes a culture of excellence by solid safety practice, risk management, monitoring, active leadership engagement, and communication on or off duty.”
“Having the standards and system in place at such a unique command has contributed to the strong safety culture at ACU-5, but what makes the difference is our ‘Swift Intruders,’” Nelson explained. “The entire command is committed to safety, and it shows when you look at our numbers, and the advances we have made. Those results are indicative of a safety-all-the-time mindset and everyone is constantly doing their best to improve.”
In 2018, a safety mishap on the flight line shed light on the need for a change. “When the incident occurred, it forced the command to put leadership in place who are passionate about safety and really know the intricacies of the LCAC community… This had a HUGE impact,” said Boatswain’s Mate Chief Petty Officer Ethan Cleveland, ACU-5 safety leading chief petty officer.
Placing the right people in the right leadership positions led to vast improvements to the safety culture at ACU-5, ultimately drawing laudatory praise from the Naval Safety Center. “There is a long road ahead of us, but without a doubt, ACU-5 is definitely headed for greatness… you haven’t seen the last of us,” Cleveland adds.
“We are committed to an unwavering determination to reduce mishap numbers even further in 2020,” said Lt. Ortega.