Crash Dynamics Lab a tool to save lives
Crash Dynamics Lab grand opening ceremony attendees gather around a simulated downed aircraft as they take a tour of the site Feb. 14.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Feb. 16, 2012) -- A ceremony was held to unveil the new U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center Crash Dynamics Lab at what was once more commonly known as the "bone yard" to most Soldiers and members of the Fort Rucker community Feb. 14.

Safety officials and members of the Fort Rucker community were among those in attendance of the grand opening ceremony to observe the ribbon cutting and take a tour of the site that now houses 14 replicated aircraft and vehicle accidents that were based on actual incidents that the Army has experienced over the years, according to Col. Kenneth J. Biland, deputy commander of USACR/Safety Center.

"The various stations seen here [at the Crash Dynamics Lab] are meant to train and develop our Army safety professionals with a simple intent," he said. "To analyze data and information so that we can develop material, training, maintenance or operational solutions to help prevent accidents in our force."

Brig. Gen. William T. Wolf, director of Army Safety and commander of the USACR/Safety Center, spoke at the event and cut the ribbon of the new state-of-the-art lab saying the Crash Dynamics Lab is the culmination of years of effort by many.

"This started almost three years ago," said Wolf. "This is a one-of-a-kind facility and there is nothing like it, not just in the Department of Defense, but in the United States.

"What we did as a division is to recreate what we see," he said. "Sadly, [these accidents] injure or take the lives of our Soldiers, and destroy or damage aircraft and vehicles."

What is seen at the crash lab site is a diorama of actual accidents that have occurred, according to the general.

"These are not just made up [scenes] or aircraft that we just placed here," he said. "These were real, live accidents that help our investigators and help our trainees learn their skill set so we can apply those lessons and at the end of the day, save lives."

The CDL was built to provide examples of the various types of accidents that injure and kill Soldiers, according to Michael Wesolek, training director for the USACR/Safety Center. Training at the CDL is included in the curriculum for the Aviation Safety Officer Course, Ground Safety Officer Course and the Career Program 12 Civilian resident course.

According to Wesolek, the safety of Soldiers has always been a priority of the Army and it is doing what it can to mitigate hazards that Soldiers encounter.

"Since the early 70s, the Army has recognized that we are losing a lot of Soldiers to accidents," he said. "We've really ramped up safety since then and every year we get progressively better at identifying hazards and mitigating those hazards through things like the Crash Dynamics Lab. This is just one of many different tools that we use to lower risks and save lives.

"[Safety students] come out here and they arrive as if they've just arrived on an accident scene and act as if they are real-life accident investigators," said the training director. "Once they arrive on the scene, they will section off and treat it as a true accident, going through every step."

The students will then go through and measure and diagram everything they see to determine, first, what happened, said Wesolek. They must go through everything and find out the: who, what, when, where and how of the accident. From there, the students will attempt to disseminate that information to determine how everything occurred and find a way to keep it from happening again.

The aircraft and vehicles on the sites shown in the various accident scenes are genuine and were involved in accidents that resulted it many injuries and loss of life. For that reason, it is important to have this facility and conduct this type of training, said Wesolek. The bone yard, as it was previously called, was updated with more modern types of aircraft in order to better train the students.

"What is seen here is an upgrade of what was here before," he said. "This facility used to be about a quarter its current size and it had older legacy aircraft that the Army doesn't use anymore.

"That's what brought [this project] on," he said. "Now we have all modernized aircraft, ground vehicles and personal vehicles and motorcycles that we didn't have before. We included [personal transportation vehicles] because we lose a lot of Soldiers every year through those types of accidents.

"Realistic training helps Army safety professionals reduce accidental losses with their formations, resulting in a force that is both mission capable and mission ready," said Wesolek. "The CDL offers hands-on training that supports the Army Learning Concept 2015, which is an initiative of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command that envisions learnercentric, relevant training at the individual level."

Page last updated Thu February 16th, 2012 at 00:00