Army safety director addresses division, leaders
May 31, 2012
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- As Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division (LI) units and organizations educated Soldiers, Families and civilians at the annual Safety Day Fair, two special guests visited the installation Thursday to talk to leaders about Army safety and accident trends.
Brig. Gen. William T. Wolf, U.S. Army Combat Readiness / Safety Center commander and director of Army Safety, and his senior enlisted adviser, Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Stidley, traveled from Fort Rucker, Ala., to participate in Safety Day here.
"Safety events are really critically important, especially this time of year," Wolf said. "We're entering what's called the '101 Days of Summer' and for Soldiers, it's a great time of the year -- especially at Fort Drum.
"It's a beautiful time of year (and) the weather is incredible, but it's really a critical time of year to (focus on the) message of safety, looking out for each other, being engaged and understanding the risks that are out there," he continued. "They need to get the message of understanding the risks that are out there … on and off duty."
The post dedicated an entire day to promoting safety -- from the morning run, unit-specific training and the Safety Fair, Wolf added.
"The Safety Fair (here) covered everything you can imagine and more," Wolf noted. "They really go all out here. This is one of the best events I've seen across the Army for a division or installation to do. Soldiers and the division leadership really get immersed in safety, risk mitigation and risk management."
During Wolf's visit, he also met one on one with division, garrison and brigade leaders, and later spoke at a briefing to provide safety information, prevention tips and accident trends to company, battalion and brigade commanders and senior NCOs.
Before Wolf's remarks, Maj. Gen. Mark A. Milley, Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division (LI) commander, noted that Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer.
"Commanders, you and only you are responsible and accountable for everything," he said. "While you are in command -- it's a privilege, not a right -- and it's your solemn duty.
"This weekend and Labor Day weekend are two of the most dangerous weekends in America," Milley continued. "We're coming into a celebratory season. Make sure celebrations don't turn into stupidity."
Milley also presented several safety awards.
During the Safety Run, units competed for top honors by creating safety displays. This year, 2nd Brigade Combat Team won first place; 10th Combat Aviation Bri-gade earned second place; and 10th Sustainment Brigade received third place.
Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team received a Safety Accident Prevention Award for having no Class A, B or C accidents from Feb. 16, 2010, to Feb. 15, 2011.
The Broken Wing award, which is presented to aviators who prevent a catastrophic accident, was given to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mark Foschetti, an AH-64 Apache pilot and Task Force Phoenix's acting safety officer. During the unit's last deployment to Afghanistan, Foschetti prevented a catastrophic aircraft accident. While making an approach to Bagram Airfield on July 11, the aircraft's tail rotor separated from the helicopter. Foschetti used skill and good judgment to safely land the aircraft and prevent injury to his co-pilot.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 William Butler, an OH-58 Kiowa pilot and 10th Combat Aviation Brigade maintenance officer, received the Crew Member Safety Award for flying more than 6,000 accident-free hours -- including 1,500 hours in combat -- during his military service.
During the safety briefing, Wolf said this was the first time he has had the opportunity to speak to so many of the division's leaders now that most of the Soldiers have redeployed to Fort Drum.
"Each year, it's a privilege and an honor to come up here and talk to the great Soldiers," he said. "It's a great credit to your leadership and what you all have done in the fight over the last years downrange."
Wolf added that it was important to share Army statistics because it's a reflection of how Soldiers here are doing.
The Army has been tracking safety and accident trends only since the 1970s. Since then, there have been significant changes in the number of accidents on and off duty.
When the Army began tracking aviation, ground and off-duty accidents in 1975 until 1979, the Army lost 609 troops to accidents alone -- about two battalions' worth of Soldiers, Wolf explained.
In the decades following, Army accident rates began dropping significantly. During the time period of 2000-2009, with much of the Army deployed, only 223 Soldiers were killed due to accidents, Wolf added. In the last three years, the Army has seen the lowest number of accidental deaths in history.
"It's incredible in terms of where our Army has come," Wolf said. "The rate of loss we saw in 1970s was significant. We're at the lowest rate we've seen in 40 years of collecting data. There's some pride there, but we have a long ways to go.
"We lose one Soldier -- that's one Soldier too many," he added.
The Army has great leaders, equipment and training, but the biggest challenge the Army faces are off-duty accidents, according to Wolf. Privately owned vehicle accidents account for 63 percent of all off-duty accidents.
"That's the most dangerous part of the world that our Soldiers are involved in -- in their own vehicles -- sedans, trucks, sport-utility vehicles or van," Wolf said.
Stidley agreed, adding that 67 percent of fatalities in POVs are due to Soldiers not wearing their seat belts.
Most motorcycle fatalities occur in a surprising demographic -- Army leaders from sergeant to lieutenant colonel who "are entrusted to lead your Soldiers and enforce the standards," Stidley said.
"Many motorcycle accidents are survivable if riders would just wear their helmets," he added.
Only 24 states require motorcycle riders to wear a helmet. However, regardless of the state law, Soldiers are always required to wear the correct personal protective equipment, Stidley explained.
About 14 percent of Soldiers across the Army ride motorcycles, according to Wolf.
"(It's critical that) leaders remain engaged both on and off duty," he said.
"It's also (important) for Soldiers to continue the ethos of looking out for each other," he added. "The warrior ethos says 'never leave a fallen comrade,' and we see that every day downrange and across the Army."
However, Wolf and Stidley both stress that leaders and Soldiers continue to protect their "battle buddies" off duty.
"On duty, our Soldiers get it. Our leaders are engaged. We're leading them (and) training them," Wolf explained. "The sad part is that off duty, almost four times as many Soldiers (die in accidents).
"We've got a great band of brothers and sisters out there, and they exercise that understanding of looking out for each other when they're on duty; it's making sure they understand that when they're off duty."
USACRSC is helping to prevent accidents through on- and off-duty training initiatives, including the Army Traffic Safety Program, which includes the motorcycle mentorship program and mandatory motorcycle training.
All riders are required to take the basic rider course. A new regulation requires riders to take the experienced rider or sport bike train- ing within 12 months of taking the basic course, Wolf explained.
The organization is also working on a remedial driving program that will be available soon to help change bad driving behaviors.
For more information about safety initiatives, tips to prevent accidents and training, visit the USACRSC website at https:// safety.army.mil.