By Staff Sgt. Lindsey KiblerMay 12, 2014
FORT BENNING, Ga. - One day after tornado watches plagued Fort Benning and its surrounding communities, light beamed through the windows of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team "Sledgehammer" chapel, May 1, as Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, conducted their safety stand down training.
The Soldiers listened as their first sergeant, 1st Sgt. LeVares Jackson, stood before them and reiterated a message, he said, will never change: Do the right thing.
"If the Soldiers can take one thing, and one thing only, away from this training, I want it to be 'always do the right thing,'" said Jackson, a Lima, Ohio, native.
Although the safety training was a more-standardized presentation provided by the Department of the Army's U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, Jackson took a less standardized approach, often using himself to demonstrate examples of poor decision making. While some skits may have had the Soldiers laughing at the first sergeant's expense, Jackson stressed the seriousness of safety.
There has been a declining trend in the reported number of accidents across the Army over the last few years, according to figures published by the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
As of April 30, 2014, there have been 64 reported accidents during fiscal year (FY) 2014, down 4 percent from the same period in FY13. On-duty accidents, overall, were down 11 percent compared to the same period in FY13, and overall off-duty accidents were down two percent. While the number may seem small, it's important to recognize that on- and off-duty accidents are further broken down into subcategories. An overall number is compiled from those numbers.
Robert Topolewski, affectionately referred to as "Safety Bob" throughout the Sledgehammer Brigade, said there are a number of factors that have contributed to the decrease in accidents, as the number of accidents begin to resemble those prior to 9/11.
"As we downsize, there is the fact that there just aren't as many Soldiers as there were 10 years ago, when the number of accidents were higher," said Topolewski, the 3rd ABCT, 3rd ID, safety officer. "There are also a lot less Soldiers deploying. At one point, the deployments were back-to-back. Five, six, seven years ago we had a large presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since then, we have left Iraq and are readjusting the roles and numbers of Soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan."
Statistics have shown that Soldiers with multiple deployments were more likely to injure themselves while on rest and recuperation leave, or following redeployment, than they were while on deployment, Topolewski said.
However, regardless of deployments, accidents do occur.
"It is your duty to exercise the Warrior Ethos and to live the Army Values, whether you are wearing the uniform at work or in your civilian clothes at home," Jackson said.
Current numbers estimate nearly 35 percent of accidents occur in the home, due to various factors including, but not limited to, house fires, hot-oil cooking and grilling, carbon monoxide poisoning and privately-owned weapons.
Motorcycles, boats, sports-related and water activities were also covered during the training, as well as alcohol-related accidents.
Halfway through the training, Jackson barked "On your feet!" It was then that he made each of his Soldiers repeat his words: "I will not drink and drive. I will not let a fellow Soldier drink and drive."
The otherwise empty chapel echoed as the Soldier's repeated his words over and over and over again.
It is training like the safety stand down Jackson conducted with his troop that Topolewski says is another factor in the steadily declining number of accidents.
"Is training alone a silver bullet? No," said Topolewski. "But it's consistent and that consistency in training, coupled with other factors, results in a more safety-conscious Soldier," which is reflected in the most current safety numbers.
For more information, or to read the Army's monthly safety magazine, Knowledge, visit www.safety.army.mil.