No Battle Buddy Left Behind: A Piece of C.A.K.E
December 23, 2013
DAEGU GARRISON -- On a hot weekend night in downtown Daegu, tempers are flaring outside of a popular nightclub where neon lights ward off the darkness and house music throb from within. Two Soldiers are potentially about to engage in what may be an alcohol induced incident.
Abruptly, another Soldier stands between them, amicably suggesting that they both retire back to their barracks and avoid the trouble that would ensue if they fought. The interceder's battle buddy has already flagged down taxis for the two to be taken back to their respective barracks. A potentially explosive situation has been defused.
The two Soldiers who intervened are members of the No Battle Buddy Left Behind (NBBLB) project, an initiative borne of 169th Signal Company, 36th Signal Battalion, of Camp Walker.
The premise behind this project is that indiscipline problems among Soldiers are best prevented by their peers, and so each weekend a group of volunteer Soldiers and junior non-commissioned officers team up, make a pact with each other not to drink alcohol or partake in any of the other actions associated with indiscipline, and go to the off-post bars and clubs where other Soldiers gather.
Pfc. Sean M. Corley, Microwave Systems Operator Maintainer, assigned to the 169th Sig. Co., a native of Melbourne, Fla., said, "The idea came from the reality that Soldiers stationed here in Korea have many opportunities to put themselves in dangerous situations, or situations that could get them in trouble."
On any given Friday or Saturday night, they might be preventing fights, calling taxis for intoxicated Soldiers, and reminding Soldiers of curfew as the hour approaches 1 a.m.
NBBLB is a spin-off of another ambitious undertaking in 169th Sig.Co.: Career Advancement Knowledge & Experience, or CAKE. Both NBBLB and CAKE are the brainchildren of Sgt. Vainuupo Avegalio, a Microwave Systems Team Chief.
Avegalio introduced CAKE to the company as a way to better develop and prepare junior Soldiers.
The program brings together a group of between 10 to 15 Soldiers and teaches them doctrine, lessons learned, procedures, and promotion boards. The group leaders rotate among the NCOs participating in the program and focus on better preparing Soldiers and junior NCOs for future leadership positions. A happy byproduct of CAKE is that it provides an alcohol-free environment that gives Soldiers a productive means of spending their evenings and weekends.
During one CAKE session, Avegalio posed a question.
"How can we positively influence other Soldiers who might be inclined toward self-destructive weekend habits?" The answer, "NBBLB."
"Safety is paramount, we are not a security force, but we are here because we care. The best night is an incident free night," said Avegalio.
So how does it work? Group meetings begin around 7:30 p.m. on Camp Walker. The senior NCO will give a brief explaining the night's mission, planned route for the evening and risk mitigation measures. The group will move to the downtown area as briefed in the plan.
A typical evening patrol with the group includes them striking up conversations, enjoying coffee, and reminding people to be safe. They are there to assist anyone who appears to need help. No matter which unit or service or nationality of the person needing assistance, they will be there to help.
"It feels great to know that we can make someone's life better, just by doing something as minor as as making sure they get back on post in a timely fashion," said Corley. "It feels even better to know that we'ere helping to keep each other safe."
The group will finalize the evening patrol around curfew time by coming back to Camp Walker for accountability and AAR comments. This gives the leaders a chance to capture program success and ways to improve.
Since the program started there have been a total of 1,723 volunteer hours, 762 taxis provided, $7,459,800.00 Korean won that has been spent on taxis out of volunteer pockets, 74 fights stopped, 134 fights prevented and 42 sexual assault prevented.
Between CAKE and NBBLB, 169th Sig. Co. has enjoyed a decrease in alcohol incidents and non-alcohol indiscipline incidents of 67 percent and 50 percent, respectively. Capt. Robert N. White, 169th Sig., company commander, credits this significant decrease to CAKE and NBBLB.
"The NBBLB program is all about Soldiers looking out for Soldiers," White said. "It also gives the direct line leader a chance to show how much he or she cares and a way to make a difference.
"As a result, Soldiers see one another doing something innovative and going the extra mile to ensure their safety which increases motivation. It's a win, win formula!"
NBBLB is built around the principle of peers policing up peers.
Corely also stated that the program is all about Soldiers helping Soldiers, taking care of their battle buddies and their well-being, this is why they do what they do.
"I would just say that if you want to make a difference whole-heartedly, you can make it happen," said Corley. "Everything major starts out as an idea. Our program started out just as an idea." (Ed. note - 169th Signal Co. Public Affairs made significant contributions to this story.)