Units brush up on safety knowledge while competing
Staff Sgt. Michael Barry, 2nd Signal Brigade team captain, and teammates Pfc. Brandon Wallace and Sgt. Justin Sepulveda answer the double bonus question during a round of Safety Showdown at Wiesbaden's Community Activity Center.

WIESBADEN, Germany - As the season changes to summer, so does the focus of safety.

Instead of slippery roadways, frostbite or winter tires, it's suddenly about slippery pool decks, heat stroke and T-CLOCS inspections.

For that reason Wiesbaden military community safety pros teamed up May 20 to ensure Soldiers' awareness before taking to the road, water and barbecue pits just before the Memorial Day weekend.

"Forget what you've seen in movies. Exercise what you've learned in Army safety training," said Joe "Safety Joe" Michalkiewicz, 5th Signal Safety manager, to Soldiers during the safety stand-down assembly about alcohol and water safety and risk management at the Community Activity Center on Lucius D. Clay Kaserne. "Pay attention to what's going on; have situational awareness. Once the boat has overturned, it's almost too late to put on that life jacket."

For anyone who may have been in the Army longer than a year or lives a careful life, such a semi-annual training requirement may seem a bit tedious. "Safety is a boring topic. No one really wants to hear it," Michalkiewicz said.

So to accomplish checks on learning, safety specialists used the Safety Showdown, a Jeopardy-style game, to test Soldiers' reception and retention of information imparted during training.

"People seem to know the answers," said Joe, who has hosted the showdown during the past four years and first began offering the alternative assessment approach in Mannheim more than a decade ago.

And it's no question that Soldiers know the right answers to seasonal safety questions. The main event that kicked off in the afternoon drew seven teams of four Soldiers to vie for the Summer Safety Showdown crown.

This session's winner was 2nd Signal Brigade. The team moved from third place and took a commanding lead after answering a bonus question correctly and doubling their wager of 3,200 points to 6,400 and again to 12,800. In the final round, the team's score (13,200 points) more than doubled the next closest team, and its meager wager of 100 points seemed to be more of a show of discipline to hold for the win.

While the game inserts a little fun and interaction into the training, truly gauging its effectiveness is even difficult for safety professionals.

"It is a business where only your failures are glaring at you," said Michalkiewicz.

"We never really see the full outcomes of safety training," said Manar Sadek-Shaw, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Safety director. "We hope that what we're doing here is a whole lot of prevention."

But with more than 40 years of collectively talking safety in military communities and despite the inability to precisely capture the program's successes, local pros said efforts at prevention have priceless returns.

"We want to make sure we preserve our fighting force," said Shaw. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It's better to stop something from happening than to try to fix it later."

"I think we're making a difference because we're teaching them to do the right thing," said Michalkiewicz.

The stand-down event also included representatives and information offered by the Public Health Command, Army Substance Abuse Program, Army Community Service and Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation, and the Fire Department. Also, community and private organizations -- Community Bank, Andrews Federal Credit Union, Red Cross, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Association of the U.S. Army, USO, and Army and Air Force Exchange Services loss prevention -- were on hand to support the event.

Visit the garrison safety webpage at www.wiesbaden.army.mil/sites/installation/safety.asp for more safety information and links to other Army Safety resources.

Page last updated Tue June 3rd, 2014 at 00:00