By Michelle KennedyMay 23, 2013
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Across the installation, commanders and leaders are preparing for Memorial Day weekend. The long weekend marks the beginning of the "100 Days of Summer" -- warm weather, vacations and outdoor activities -- and that means Soldiers, Family Members and civilians should take precautions and consider safety concerns.
Brig. Gen. Timothy Edens, commanding general of the U.S. Army Combat Readiness / Safety Center and director of Army Safety, visited the North Country for the first time this week. During his visit, Edens and Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Stidley, USACR / Safety Center senior enlisted adviser, helped spread the word of safety to the community, met with leaders and toured the installation.
"I really appreciate 10th Mountain, Fort Drum and (Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend) and his great team for inviting us to participate in their Safety Stand Down," Edens said. "I hear great things about what they do here, and I look forward to (seeing) the remarkable Soldiers, Families and great civilians who work at Fort Drum. I'm really excited to be here.
"I'm looking forward to some great (best practices, because) I think the 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum and this area enjoy a pretty good reputation in safety and risk management in the Army."
Senior and junior leaders from across Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division (LI) gathered Wednesday at the Multipurpose Auditorium to hear the latest updates about Army safety and initiatives. Edens and Stidley, along with Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division (LI) commander, had an opportunity to speak to junior and senior leaders about engaging their Soldiers and knowing the individuals for whom they are responsible.
"Safety is something you're always aware of -- the risks and the hazards. You thoughtfully and deliberately plan for them just as we do for the enemy, the weather and terrain," Edens said. "(Safety is) certainly a commander's responsibility. It's training, standards and discipline. It's all part and parcel of what we do as leaders and Soldiers."
Edens added that he believes safety is imperative, not a priority.
"(Safety) is not a priority. A priority is subject to resources, changes, fluctuations -- safety can't be," he said. "I'm a firm believer that safety is imperative to what we do in the Army. I don't care what your branch in the Army is -- it's imperative to our success."
Edens told leaders that on-duty accidents and fatalities have dropped during the last six years, but off-duty deaths remain higher.
"Off-duty fatalities outnumber on-duty fatalities 3-to-1," he added.
Across the Army this fiscal year, 63 percent of all fatal accidents involved privately owned vehicles --sedans, sport utility vehicles, trucks and motorcycles. Almost 80 percent involved alcohol, and almost all involved indiscipline, Edens said.
"It's amazing, when you look at all the accidents: someone always observed, knew or knew someone who knew (someone) who was high-risk," he said. "Sadly, we don't intervene in a timely enough manner to prevent a fatality or severe injury."
That also means leaders need to know which of their Soldiers own motorcycles. Almost half of last year's POV accidents involved motorcycles. Most of the fatalities were not young, inexperienced Soldiers -- they were noncommissioned officers, Edens said.
"These are noncommissioned officers we trust to lead and set the example for our Soldiers," he said.
Edens explained three ways to help make a difference in spreading effective safety messages. Leaders must create a culture for Soldier engagement and tailor messages and tools to meet the needs of their formation; Soldiers need to take care of each other -- on and off duty; and Families and communities must adopt a risk-mitigation culture to help support Soldiers.
"The behavior in your formation is something you influence; that's what leaders do," Edens noted. "There shouldn't be a line drawn between warrior culture and safety awareness."
Townsend agreed, adding that Soldiers need to get back to the basics and doctrine.
"Risk management is embedded in all Army doctrine," he said. "We have to teach our junior leaders and our troops."
Soldiers perform dangerous actions every day, whether it's flying a helicopter, driving a military vehicle or firing rounds at the range, Townsend said.
"If we follow our doctrine, it makes it as safe as possible to accomplish a very dangerous act," he said.
"No matter the audience, I think safety should be acknowledged as an imperative part of what you're doing," Edens said. "If you're an infantryman, you're trained to close in and destroy our enemies in close combat. There's nothing more dangerous than that.
"There's also much more than the inherent danger of the enemy shooting at you; it has to do with the environment around you," he continued. "When you drive out the gate to go out for dinner, it's far more dangerous out there than we fully acknowledge."
Just because a Soldier is at Fort Drum and not in Afghanistan, it doesn't mean he or she is in a low-risk, no-hazard environment, Edens explained.
"There's an assumption that there's no hazard here, and (Soldiers) have proven themselves invincible from combat experience," he said. "You go out and buy a motorcycle to get a rush. You want that quality in a Soldier, but at the same time, you want that same Soldier to be mature in the approach to what that vehicle truly is -- it is a machine and it demands your respect.
"So you need to be well-trained to standard and you need to be disciplined when you ride it," Edens continued. "All too often, a bad, split-second decision can result in fatal or disastrous consequences."
While on-duty safety numbers at Fort Drum are good, Townsend stressed that leaders still face the challenge of mitigating off-duty accidents.
"The most dangerous months are still ahead of us (this summer)," he said. "You have to use creative thinking and creative leadership to figure out how to (prevent off-duty accidents)."
Stidley added that there are many useful tools for commanders and NCOs on the USACR / Safety Center website at https://safety.army.mil. The website includes tools, information and vignettes to help leaders tailor their safety messages.
"Don't wait for someone else to send you (safety information)," Stidley said.
The USACR / Safety Center uses the "Know the Signs" campaign, which encourages leaders to know who in their formations, Families, neighborhoods or communities are at risk.
"One of the six criteria of safety excellence … (is) visibly committed senior leaders," Edens said. "As a one-star general who is the director of Army safety, I think it's important that I (and) all senior leaders are seen, heard and observed not just talking safety, but living what we preach."
Edens said he and Stidley visit all Army installations, from combat units to support units, Army depots, arsenals and the civilian workforce.
"I try to get out as much as I can to all the units," he said. "A large part of our Army workforce (is composed of) Department of the Army civilians, and they are absolutely essential to what we do. Their safety and well-being, and identifying the risks and hazards that they deal with day in and day out, are just as important as it is for the Soldiers."
During their visit, Edens and his team spent a lot of time with division and garrison safety teams here.
"I must commend the safety staff here. Whether they are (U.S. Army Installation Management Command)-side or mission-side, for the collegial relationship that I've observed so far, they get an A-plus," Edens said. "You don't necessarily see that everywhere.
"I think it is something that is essential to the success," he added. "At the end of the day, no matter what post, camp or station you go to, we all work for the senior mission commander (whose) concern for safety is universal."