Senior leaders: safety key to Army's future
September 14, 2011
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Safety is a critical element in rebuilding the Army after a decade of war, according to senior leaders addressing safety professionals in attendance at the 2011 Army Senior Safety Symposium.
Brig. Gen. Bill Wolf, director of Army Safety and commanding general, U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, opened the formal portion of the six-day training event Tuesday, Sept. 13, with an overview of where the Army stands today regarding accidental fatalities.
"It's been a good year in many ways, but a difficult year in many others," Wolf said of fiscal 2011, adding that while the Army has seen tremendous successes in on-duty safety during recent years, extraordinary challenges off duty continue to confront Soldiers and leaders far from the dangers of theater.
"Nearly every weekend since April, we've had at least one motorcycle fatality, and it's tragic," Wolf said. If current trends stay on track through the end of September, total motorcycle fatalities during 2011 are projected to meet or exceed the figure logged in fiscal 2008, the Army's worst year on record for motorcycle-related deaths.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Ray Chandler spoke next and shared his view on why Soldiers are performing exceptionally well on duty but taking negligent and unnecessary risks after the workday ends.
"It's about a standard of conduct associated with leading people," Chandler said. "We are a great Army, but we have challenges. We have to take a hard look at what being accountable actually means."
That accountability begins with leaders, according to Chandler. Leaders must model appropriate behavior for their subordinates and "self-police" to ensure they know, set and enforce the standard. Importantly, the job of leadership does not end with the duty day; rather, leaders must guide their Soldiers in garrison just as closely as they do in combat.
Following Chandler, Lt. Gen. William Troy, director of the Army Staff, reflected on how safety is perceived within the unit and the force at large.
"Sometimes Army safety is a nag, but a good nag," Troy said before discussing the alternative view of safety as an effect, rather than a cause, of accident prevention. "Safety is an effect, the culmination of a lot of other factors that, if done properly, prevents accidents."
According to Troy, command climate is a telling indicator of unit safety.
"If there's a good command climate, you're much more likely to have a good safety climate," Troy said. Communication across rank and fostering a culture where Soldiers feel comfortable expressing safety concerns to leadership, and leaders in turn taking those concerns seriously, are critical elements of positive command climate, he said.
Equally important is discipline, Troy stated. While personal discipline is difficult to enforce off duty, he said, leaders who ensure their Soldiers perform to standard on duty, or "do it right every single time," will have fewer safety problems than those with poor unit discipline overall.
The symposium will continue Wednesday, Sept. 15, with addresses from Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff; Honorable Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army (Installations, Energy and Environment); and Lt. Gen. Dennis Via, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Materiel Command. Stay tuned to the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center's Facebook and Twitter pages for live updates and photos.