Army Safety Program strong, off-duty challenges remain
February 16, 2012
(Fort Rucker, Ala.)--The 2012 Winter Army Senior Safety Symposium was held Feb. 14-16, 2012, at Fort Rucker, Ala., with 65 of the Army's senior safety Leaders in attendance to assess current Army Safety Program efforts and chart a path forward to ensure continued success of the program.
"The rate of accidental loss we suffer in the Army has dropped precipitously in the past 40 years," said Brig. Gen. William T. Wolf, director of Army Safety and commanding general, U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, in opening the symposium. "That's a good news story, and we attribute it to those who came before us in Army safety, and to those of us sitting here."
Wolf explained the biggest current threat to Soldiers, outside of armed conflict, is when they return home.
"There is barely a weekend that goes by we don't have a privately owned vehicle incident somewhere in the Army," said Wolf. "Although programs have changed over the years and improved our Soldiers lives, there are still challenges in off-duty times."
The number of Army accident fatalities reported so far in fiscal 2012 is similar to the loss numbers for the past three years.
"The largest number of losses is in privately owned vehicles. But our safety programs out there are making a difference so, hopefully, we can get those numbers down," Wolf stated.
Wolf called for commanders at all levels to get involved in unit safety to drive down the number of accidents. He cited specific safety tools available from the USACR/Safety Center's website https://safety.army.mil that can assist commanders in their efforts.
Maintaining an effective Army Safety Program during a drawdown of the service with the end of the war in Iraq is important, a point made clear by the director of the Army staff, Lt. Gen. William J. Troy, in his remarks.
"Safety is more important during the drawdown because we don't want to lose the great strides our Army safety professionals have made," Troy said. "Our goal is getting smaller the right way. What you are doing is important and very much embraced by our chief of staff."
Instilling safety into the minds of recruits is critical to making them understand that safety is a core value in the Army, Troy added.
"I think safety fits in perfectly with our values and specific safety training should be tailored for where a Soldier is in his career: a recruit or one with three combat deployments," Troy explained.
He cited Army end strength, modernization and readiness issues as important activities during the drawdown that need to be conducted with safety in mind.
"We will have a smaller but capable force and Army Leadership is dedicated to making it happen," he added.
Safety, or lack of it, can stop a unit or reduce its effectiveness, according to a special assistant to the vice chief of staff, U.S. Army, who shared his thoughts with the group.
"If you don't get safety under control, it will absolutely grind a unit to a halt," said Maj. Gen. Michael S. Tucker. "That's why you need to make safety important to your boss."
He suggested three things Army safety professionals can do to energize their program: remember that talk is cheap, get out of the office and a picture is worth a thousand words when showing a unit commander safety issues, which may require his attention.
"Make it a practical approach to safety," Tucker said.
The drawdown will bring with it safety problems when Army bases are again packed with thousands of Soldiers who have been absent, fighting in Iraq over the past 10 years.
"The Army is standing on a beach watching a tsunami approach," he said. "We'll see increases in POV accidents, driving under the influence cases, domestic abuse, sexual assault, crime and other acts of indiscipline. Army safety professionals need to be very involved to help prevent these problems."
The Army Safety Program supports Army personnel deployed around the world, and some Army commands face unique safety challenges, according to two Army safety managers who attended the SSS.
"Aviators in Hawaii get unique flying experience and unique training challenges, with overwater survival training such as they get in the dunker," said Richard Anderson, safety manager, U.S. Army, Pacific.
Other Army flight operations face unique safety issues due to a lack of aviation support infrastructure from the nations in which they operate.
"In Africa, there aren't many control measures in place for operations conducted on the continent," said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Robert Reynolds, aviation safety officer and deputy director for U.S. Army Africa Command. "We work with 54 African countries and each time we conduct an exercise in one of them, we have to coordinate, upfront with them, how we're going to conduct flight operations."
The 2012 Army Winter Senior Safety Symposium is one of two such gatherings held annually by the USACR/Safety Center to bring together Army safety professionals in a professional forum setting.