Senior leaders: communication key to Army safety
September 15, 2010
PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 15) - Opening the flow of communication between Soldiers, leaders and safety professionals was the overarching theme during the second and final day of the 2010 Army Senior Safety Tactical Symposium.
Lt. Gen. William Troy, director of the Army Staff, opened the day's events with an address that emphasized the impact of command climate on unit safety programs. According to Troy, open and honest communication at all levels is vital to safety success, but command climate determines how comfortable Soldiers might feel in voicing their opinions and concerns on issues within the unit.
"Most problems come down to command climate," Troy said. "Somebody always knows what's going on. Whether they stand up and tell you about it is a reflection of command climate. If you don't have a positive command climate, you're not going to have that conversation."
Troy also urged leaders to get to know their Soldiers on a personal level to learn who is most at risk.
"The guy who does something stupid is rarely a surprise to his platoon sergeant," Troy said. "If we don't have effective communication in our units, we're going to have problems."
Following Troy's address, three panels convened to discuss successes and challenges confronting safety professionals both at home and in theater. First, installation safety leaders shared their best practices and areas for improvement.
"You can't sit behind a computer and do your job," Harvey Jones, Fort Campbell, Ky., garrison safety manager, said. "You have to build credibility and trust (with Soldiers). You've got to talk to them to find out what they need."
Members of the Afghanistan panel expressed similar thoughts during their presentation and question and answer session. Standards training and enforcement are especially important in the ever-changing combat environment, according to panel members Rodney Lowell, Joe Cambron, Jay Jennings, Dave Henderson and Norvel Turner, all safety professionals with multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The risk is always going to be there," Cambron, a safety manager with the Defense Ammunition Center in McAlester, Okla., said. "You have to be able to figure out how to manage the risk" with maximum Soldier participation and buy-in.
Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger, deputy chief of staff, Army G-3/5/7, and Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Wells, Army G-3/5/7, provided the symposium's final address. They, too, stressed the importance of engagement and continuous communication among all levels of command but particularly from the "ground up," beginning with first-line leaders.
"We've got to get past the rituals (of safety) and face up to what our challenges are," he said. "We build safety consciousness in our Army one Soldier at a time through personal interaction. Everybody in the Army knows there is risk, but not everybody mitigates it."
Bolger said engagement and personal involvement are necessary to grow the Army's current generation of younger Soldiers into a future force of effective leaders.
"These guys want a personal connection with their leadership," he said. "We have to empower the lower guys. When we do, they are learning how to lead. You're not going to advance the ball unless you go from the bottom up."
Brig. Gen. Bill Wolf, director of Army Safety and commanding general, U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, closed the symposium by thanking the safety professionals in attendance for their dedication to protecting all Soldiers, Families and Civilians.
"There is no more noble calling than what you all do," he said.
Symposium attendees will remain in Panama City Beach through Friday, Sept. 17, for additional professional development training. Photos from the symposium are available via the USACR/Safety Center Facebook page.