JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - Dozens of "pedestrians" were mowed down on Joint Base Lewis-McChord last week.

Running over notional people with electric vehicles conveyed the precise safety messages, in this case about avoiding drinking and driving, for which the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Safety Fair was started three years ago.

The third annual installation safety fair was held May 27 and hosted more than 70 vendors - a mix of officials, agencies, companies and municipalities - all demonstrating the latest safety-related practices and equipment.

"Remember the reason why you're here and the reason why all these folks are here," Col. Thomas Brittain, JBLM garrison commander, told the crowd. "It's about doing everything we do better and more safely."

A ceremony kicked off the fair, acknowledging a partnership between JBLM and U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration. David Baker of OSHA Region X and Brittain signed a document recognizing the need for emergency-response safety and the requirement to care for responders.

"The alliance ... with OSHA is to share our expertise, our resources, our personnel," said Peter Strohm, JBLM safety director, to protect first responders and maximize their chances of emerging from emergencies safely.

"Let's take care of the troops," Baker said. "Let's come up with a better, smarter way to do it. That's what this alliance allows us to do."

The installation's copy of the agreement will become part of JBLM legacy and archives, Strohm said.

A key focus of the 2010 fair was DUI awareness, said Dave Paasch, JBLM safety officer and this year's event coordinator, with the Command Maintenance Evaluation and Training Team taking point in the effort.

The Comet team set up a driving course using Neighborhood Electric Vehicles from its installation driver's training course. "Fatal vision" goggles were set vision at the equivalent of a person at somewhere between .17 and .20 blood alcohol level.

Sergeant Ryan Laporte, 595th Military Police Company, found the dizzy course instructive, but difficult.
"It was not fun at all," Laporte said. "You can't keep focused on anything. You focus in on something and it seems to be drifting to the left. It was very, very hard."

The casualties were green and orange traffic cones instead of people, but the need to avoid drinking and driving could not have been more graphically conveyed.

"Our goal is to raise the level of awareness about the dangers of impaired driving," said Theron Smith, a JBLM Comet driver trainer and veteran of the Washington State Highway Patrol.

"We ask the Soldiers, 'Is it applicable that someone could drive a vehicle under the influence of alcohol''" Smith asked rhetorically. "Yes, it happens, but is it a smart thing to do based on your requirements as a Soldier, your mission' It's not a smart thing to do."

Smith praised the timing of the safety fair that took place in the lead-up to the long Memorial Day weekend and the start of the "101 critical days of summer."

For the garrison commander, the fair was part of the Army's renewed commitment to its value of protecting Soldiers from needless injuries.

"Safety used to be in the Army a Paragraph 6 in a five-paragraph (operations) order," said Brittain, an infantry-branch officer. "Now what they have us thinking about is every time we do something with our service members or our family members, to make sure we do some type of risk assessment, to make sure we wrap our arms around how we can be more efficient, effective and safer in what we're doing."

Don Kramer is a reporter with Joint Base Lewis-McChord's weekly newspaper, the Northwest Guardian.

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