FORT JACKSON, SC -- Every Soldier knows what it's like to stand among about 100 other Soldiers in a company formation. It would be difficult for any to fathom what it would be like if their battle-buddies to their left or right began to disappear. It might seem like a movie if their comrades vanished, one-by-one.

Last year, that's exactly what happened in the U.S. Army. The equivalent of a company of Soldiers disappeared from the Army's rosters - not all at once, but one-by-one, randomly, throughout the year. These 107 Soldiers had died in accidents involving privately owned vehicles, many of these accidents involving alcohol.

Because statistics are sometimes difficult to comprehend, leaders of the187th Ordnance Battalion brought the dramatic effects of real life tragedies to the forefront of training April 23 during the battalion's Safety Stand-down Day.

The battalion partnered with on and off-post agencies to provide cadre and Advanced Individual Training Soldiers with "real world lessons they can internalize and take with them to wherever the Army decides to send them," said Lt. Col. Darrell Aubrey, commander of the 187th.

Representatives from Mothers Against Drunk Driving spoke to a theater full of 187th Soldiers to paint "mental" images of the horrors they or their loved ones endured as a result of reckless decisions made by drunk drivers.

The Columbia Police Department showed graphic photos of not only mangled vehicles, but also the bodies that had been inside them.

Later, at the battalion's headquarters, the South Carolina Highway Patrol was on hand to demonstrate its rollover crash simulator. Soldiers watched as a dummy child, not wearing a seatbelt, was dropped out of the vehicle's window like a sack of potatoes as it rolled at only 7 mph, and an adult dummy was thrown like a rag doll out of the opposite window.

Soldiers crashed into cones as they drove SIDNE go-karts, battery-powered vehicles that simulate the effects of alcohol on a motorist's driving skills. The go-karts also demonstrated the impact of driving while being fatigued, or using medication or illicit drugs, said Mary Reardon, safety specialist for the Fort Jackson Safety Center.

Some Soldiers were also given the opportunity to try performing some mundane tasks, such as catching a ball, while wearing Drunk Busters Impairment Goggles that also simulate the effects of impairment, but with more emphasis on visual distortion and alteration of depth and distance perception.

It was pretty dramatic training, all in an effort to have a dramatic impact on the AIT Soldiers who, although not yet allowed to drive on post, will one day re-enter the driving population, said 1st Lt. Burton Milnor, plans and operations officer for 187th.

Milnor, who was in charge of organizing the event, decided since April is designated National Alcohol Awareness Month, he wanted to do more than shed light on one of the Army's bigger issues - dealing with alcohol related offenses. He said he wanted to compel Soldiers to change the way they think about consuming alcohol.

"It was very powerful, it was very moving," Milnor said "And if that didn't hit home, I don't know what else I can do that's going to hit home."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16