An Open Letter from Lt. Paul Killius
Safety Officer, 12th US Inf.
This is an open letter to all members of Venture Crew 4, or potential members to give you some idea of the risks involved in the hobby of reenacting, and how we have procedures in place to mitigate them. At the 12th and in the Venture Crew, we don't take safety lightly. Safety is our number one priority.
Weapons are potentially dangerous if not handled properly. We don't use projectiles, but we do use black powder that can explode. We maintain an appropriate distance when firing our weapons to avoid muzzle blasts and potential burns. We also elevate the weapons to keep muzzle blasts over the heads of those we are firing at. When in close proximity we don't fire at all. These rules are consistent with the United States Volunteer Safety Regulations, which are found elsewhere on this website. Cleaning and maintenance of the musket is important to proper and safe operation.
Safety inspections are done each, and every time, a weapon is used to ensure proper operation and everyone's safety. Before taking the field for the first time each person has to go through rigorous training in order to handle, clean and operate the weapon properly. The new recruit is taught the proper charges for the musket (65 grains) and the appropriate place to purchase musket caps. The only caps allowed are the four-wing percussion caps. Recruits should NEVER purchase, nor use, the six-wing caps found in local sports stores such as Gander Mountain or Dick's. These caps are for in-line black powder rifles and NOT for 1860's muskets. If in doubt, talk to me, the safety officer, or one of the non-commissioned officers of the 12th US. Any questions on purchasing, the condition of a musket or any weapon should be referred to me as safety officer.
The bayonet is used primarily in stacking arms and occasionally on the musket for appearance. Other uses are rare, due to safety reasons. The bayonet should be attached properly to the musket. An inappropriately attached bayonet can cause injuries or accidents. Make sure you have the correct bayonet for your musket. Again, if in doubt call me.
We are an infantry unit, not artillery, so why should we care? Safety on the field is multi-faceted. Like the BSA says, "Be Prepared". Be able to recognize dangers and keep out of the way. Never place yourself in front of any artillery piece, ever. If asked to charge directly at an artillery piece by any non-commissioned or commissioned officer you have the right to question that order. It shouldn't happen, but it could if someone is not trained or thinking properly.
If you see an artillery crew standing by their piece with crossed rammers, this is a sign that the piece is live but fouled (misfired). Steer clear.
If you have Union artillery behind you, be conscious of their field of fire and do not let yourself be placed near the muzzle or the field of fire. Follow any directions the artillery crew gives you in their proximity.
The safety regulations for the USV also cover artillery. Read them as well.
Although BSA units are non-smoking, there are members of the host unit that do smoke. There should be no smoking around weapons (black powder will go off). Another hazard is candles in the tents, especially if you are sleeping on hay. It may be comfortable and period, but it burns fast and we have seen instances (not in our unit however) where tents have gone up in flames. Although we strive for authenticity at night in our tents a flashlight or battery lantern is just fine.
It is very crucial for the soldiers to have full canteens at all events. It is very easy to become dehydrated or have heat stroke. Drink lots of fluids and stay healthy. The non-commissioned officers will make sure that everyone takes the field with appropriate water. At large, national events, there are usually "ice angles" on the field handing out ice to beat the heat. But it is imperative that each combatant have an adequate supply of water.
If any of the young ladies are portraying civilians and are wearing dresses you need to be conscious of getting too close to fires. Also, the ladies are just as much in need of being hydrated as the soldiers and should carry and drink plenty of fluids during the day. The ladies, although in many cases are lovely to behold, do fulfill a very important and functional role and their purpose is to convey history as much as the rest of us. They are not there to "look pretty".
All of this may seem deep and unfamiliar, but over time you will become very familiar with it. The role of the Safety Officer is to ensure that the weapons used in the Venture Crew (as well as the host unit) are functioning properly and are safe. He makes sure you have the proper loads and caps and that your risk is minimized, so that you can have a safe and enjoyable experience in this fine hobby. He is also to direct and teach the non-commissioned officers in their roles to enhance the safety of the unit.
I expect that you will find your activity with the unit fun and educational and I look forward to working with all the Venture Scouts to make the experience unique and safe.
Lt. Paul Killius
Last Updated on 11/7/05
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