Newly Arrived Troops Make Safety Priority
Soldiers with Headquarters, Headquarters Troop, 10th Cavalry Regiment, don their protective gear in preparation for an upcoming mission, near Camp Liberty, Iraq. Dale Smith, 1st Cavalry Division safety director, said the most important thing a soldier can do to protect themselves is to wear all protective gear as issued and complete all tasks to standard.

CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq, Dec. 5, 2006 - Many soldiers within Multi-National Division - Baghdad are newly arrived in Iraq, in a new location in a new situation. While everyone needs a little time to adjust to the small differences of their new job, one thing remains a constant - safety. It's a part of every thing we do, everyday.

Dale Smith, the safety director for Multi-National Division - Baghdad, said there are a number of things to remember for returning troops, or for soldiers on their first deployment here in Iraq.

"Troops new to the area need to be aware of the difference in electrical power," Smith said. Outlets in Iraq use 220 volts, twice the voltage used stateside. Some personal electronic devices, such as most laptops, or handheld gaming systems, are able to use either 110 or 220. Know which voltage your electronic systems are set for, and use a transformer if necessary.

Using equipment on voltage it's not intended for can damage your equipment, or even cause a fire, Smith said. He said to be sure not to overload the system by plugging too many devices into a single wall outlet.

Fires, resulting from the improper use of electronics, are not the only things Soldiers have to be concerned with while not on missions, Smith said.

"Traffic here is different from what it is in the states," said Smith. "You have more people walking here (on base camps). Those driving need to be aware of the pedestrian traffic. Those that need to walk need to understand those driving may not be able to see you. Don't assume that if you can see a vehicle, the person driving can see you."

Smith also said that some safety concerns can be more critical at different times of the year. Some things need more attention during different seasons.

"This time of year, it's not as big of an issue as it will be in four months, but it gets much hotter here than it does at Fort Hood," Smith said. Staying hydrated is a key factor in combating heat injuries, whether you are exerting yourself during physical training or conducting missions during hot weather.
But the heat and traffic are not the only things in your living space that can pose a threat.

"Snakes scorpions, spiders, sand flies ..." Smith began, "Use the same precautions around these critters as you would back home; stay away from them."

He said leaders can protect their troops by having their uniforms treated with permethrin, an insect repellant intended to keep away sand flies which can spread the skin condition leishmaniasis.

During the rainy season, the weather itself can create a safety concern.

"From November through March, plenty of rain falls and makes the roads slick, as do the mud. It sticks to everything and gets on the roads which makes them very slippery for those who are driving," Smith said.

But, these things are minor threats compared to what a soldier could face outside the wire. Smith says it's important for a Soldier to rely on his training to protect himself during a mission.

"The single most important thing a soldier can do is perform all tasks to standard and wear all the protective equipment they were issued," Smith said. "Soldiers say the gear is cumbersome, it's heavy, it's hot, but it's combat-proven and it works."

Smith said the leaders with the troops have to make sure the soldiers wear all their issued protective gear.

"To me the most important person is that first-line leader, because he is the one who is there with the soldiers," Smith said. "They have to ensure, insist, demand they perform all tasks to standard. Accept nothing less."

Smith said when leaders and their troops don't follow force protection measures to the letter is when something bad can happen.

"One thing that is not different from training to real time missions is following set standards," Smith said. "Most of the accidents we had here last time were due to shortcuts.

"An example is not wearing seatbelts in combat vehicles, especially humvees," Smith said. "Troops say they are hard to get around gear, or they don't want to be wearing them in case of a fight. But, statistics show that no deaths have resulted in soldiers wearing seatbelts, but deaths have been caused from not wearing them."

Smith said the bottom line is there is only one person who can be responsible for your individual safety.

"Lots of people look to the safety office to keep them safe, but it's not up to us. That responsibility rests with them," Smith said. "We can tell you what's right and wrong, but it's up to the individual. That's where it has to start."

Page last updated Wed December 6th, 2006 at 10:21