By Brig. Gen. Timothy J. Edens, U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety CenterNovember 1, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Nov. 1, 2013) - Going into the holiday season, our Army has much to be thankful for, especially our Soldiers. We knew fiscal 2013 would most likely be a good year for safety, but the final outcome - 136 accidental fatalities, a 15 percent decline from the previous year and the lowest number on record - was an historic landmark. Such a remarkable achievement during a year of relentlessly high operations tempo, to include the twelfth year of combat, happened only because of the hard work and commitment of our entire Army Team. I thank each of you for your proactive part in making it possible.
Success can breed complacency, however, and we must keep that in mind in the days, weeks and months ahead. Just a few years ago, we were in the midst of a two-front war and the Army's worst safety performance in recent memory. The situation has changed dramatically since then, and our safety culture as a whole has continued to evolve and adapt to meet ever-shifting conditions. Change is the one constant; there will always be a new challenge to adapt to and overcome. How we plan, prepare and respond is what saves lives.
That being said, I am a little concerned after the first few weeks of fiscal 2014. The numbers aren't alarming, but they're not moving downward either. While I'm confident we can achieve the 10 percent reduction in accidental fatalities mandated by senior leaders in this year's Army Safety and Occupational Health Objectives, time is notorious for slipping quickly away. We have to do what we know works, do it better and do it now to fulfill the vision and duty our leaders have entrusted to us.
Don't let time run out for your Soldiers - start preparing now for whatever changes are in store for your formation. Your initiative will set the tone for what lies ahead, whether it's a combat rotation, modified training program or leadership turnover at any level. Evolution in safety doesn't happen overnight; it's a series of subtle adjustments over time that benefit the health and well-being of all. Maintaining familiarity while building upon and improving existing programs demands that a positive safety culture be in place.
While off-duty PMV-4 accidents generally dominate most accident reports during winter, we've seen a surprising number of cold-weather motorcycle fatalities during the past few years. Strive for open and honest communication with your Soldiers and their first-line leaders about not just the typical winter trends, but all activities they may be planning. Based on this dialogue, efforts like adapting your seasonal PMV program to fit your unit's needs can be a worthwhile investment that will pay dividends both in reducing risk and operationalizing your safety culture.
Change is a constant variable at the USACR/Safety Center, too. We'll share information and tips to help you tackle several seasonal safety issues in the annual Army Safe Winter Campaign, launching in early December at https://safety.army.mil. We're also gearing up for full implementation of the Globally Harmonized System, a program that will standardize the labeling and classification of chemicals and other hazardous materials across the force. The deadline for training all personnel on new requirements is Dec. 1, so use these next few weeks to ensure your Soldiers and civilian employees are trained to standard.
We'll also be saying goodbye to Command Sgt. Maj. Rick Stidley after the holidays. I cannot express how fortunate and grateful I am to have served with this fine Soldier and leader during the past year and a half. Rick has established an outstanding rapport with Soldiers and Families across the globe during the past three years, making a real difference for safety in all he's done. I know his dynamic leadership, enthusiasm, professionalism and dedication to all things Army will be greatly missed. I also know his successor, Command Sgt. Maj. Leeford Cain, will seamlessly transition, continuing our great tradition of NCO leadership in safety and forging his own legacy for the future.
Thank you again for helping achieve our Army's safest year on record. I look forward to working with you to make even further progress in keeping our great Soldiers in the fight. Have a safe and blessed Thanksgiving!
Army Safe Is Army Strong!