Pat it forward

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii - A few weeks ago, I went out to the garage with my son to sharpen a lawnmower blade. Without even thinking about it, I grabbed two sets of safety goggles and face shields for us to wear while I used the bench grinder on the blade.

That made me think - would I have done that 20 or 25 years ago, while I was still young in my Army career? Would it have been almost instinctive to take the proper safety precautions? I don't think so. I didn't know as much about safety as I do now. I didn't know how many people got hurt doing a simple task like using a bench grinder. And I didn't know how many injuries could have been prevented with the knowledge of basic safety precautions. But I do now.

This "safety sense" has been drilled into my head for 29 years. Sure, it was a slow start. I didn't always make smart choices right off the bat. But gradually I started to see the light. I saw pictures of preventable injuries that left people disabled for life. I heard statistics about the number of people killed or injured doing dumb things and how many lives are saved each year by something as simple as seat belts.

I used to resent the seemingly constant barrage of safety lectures. However, when I noticed the change that came about in my own thinking because of the Army Safety Program, I realized just how effective it has been. And it's not just me. The program has been effective in almost every Soldier's thinking. When you compare the Army population with a demographically similar civilian population, our accident and injury numbers are way lower. Far fewer 18- to 25-year-old male Soldiers die in car accidents than do their civilian counterparts.

We're doing something right. You may not get much credit for it, but your attitude and discipline are making a big difference. You're staying alive - and doing it in record numbers. Sure, there have been a few bumps in the road, and not everybody seems to get the message. But overall, we're doing a great job of not dying or getting hurt.

The importance of our success cannot be overstated. Our success can be measured in cold, hard cash. It can be measured in the combat effectiveness of a unit. But most of all, it can be measured in the fewer letters commanders have to write to grieving parents and spouses. Your life is important on so many levels, and you seem to understand that.

Our success doesn't mean we can let down our guard and put safety on a back burner. There are new, young Soldiers joining our ranks every day. These young men and women haven't been brought up to understand the importance and effectiveness of a safety sense. You have. Pass it on. Pay it forward.

Page last updated Wed February 20th, 2013 at 00:00