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Face of Defense: Veteran Ensures Safety for Marines

By Marine Corps Cpl. Garry J. Welch
31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

HAT YAO, Thailand, Feb. 23, 2012 – Deploying, embedding and ultimately ensuring the safety of the Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit is just the start of what former Marine Corps Cpl. Edwin A. Ventura does here for the unit.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Edwin A. Ventura of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit speaks to a Marine during a mock amphibious assault in Hat Yao, Thailand, Feb. 9, 2012. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Patrick McMahon

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

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.

Ventura has deployed with the 31st MEU five times to seven countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region, and he has spent more than 270 days of the last two and a half years away from his family.

“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,” he said.

The tactical safety officer’s main responsibilities are to oversee the commander’s safety program, assist the commander in incorporating training and risk management into planning, develop unit safety officers, and assist the commander with operational safety.

Although regimental and higher level units sometimes embed a tactical safety officer, Ventura’s work with the 31st MEU presents more challenges than other units, due to the nature of 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,” he said. “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.”

One of those challenges is ensuring the Marines of the 31st MEU get their annual safety training. The training usually takes place before deployments, but because the unit deploys two to three times per year, Ventura sometimes conducts the training on a ship or in foreign countries between training exercises.

Ventura said he believes his job benefits all the Marines with the unit because it keeps them 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,” he said. “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.”

His efforts have been a key enabler in the continued success of the expeditionary unit while conducting regional security operations, the unit’s commander, Marine Corps Col. Andrew R. MacMannis, said.

“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,” MacMannis said. “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.”

The former corporal said the opportunity to still be around Marines is the best part of his job, and added that a big part of his continued success as a tactical safety officer is the support he receives from MacMinnis.

“The most important thing about safety with any unit in the Marine Corps is commander support,” Ventura said. “Without the commander’s support, nothing can be accomplished in terms of safety, so in my case, without Colonel 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, which recently concluded Exercise Cobra Gold 2012 here, is the only continuously forward deployed Marine expeditionary unit.

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