By Ms. Ashley Patoka (Regional Health Command Europe)February 7, 2017
For Public Health Activity--Rheinland-Pfalz, driving is the most dangerous activity the unit conducts on a day-to-day basis. To combat this risk, the unit sent 12 of their youngest Soldiers to an eight-hour hands-on driver's training course.
The training, which was conducted by a local business, was intended to provide Soldiers realistic training with the vehicles they use for daily missions.
According to Lt. Col. Kenneth Spicer, PHA-RP Commander, the unit logs more than 240,000 miles a year with their 29-vehicle fleet, and many of the Soldiers driving are inexperienced with the types of vehicles they use.
"If you have a Soldier who grew up in an urban area, where they took public transportation, and really never had a need or necessity to drive, and now their expected to do it for their job, and in a foreign country. It just makes sense to offer this type of training," Spicer said.
Maj. Michael Moser, PHA-RP executive officer, led the effort in finding this driver's training. He said when putting it together he "wanted to ensure there were practical skills in the training, and that it was hands on."
During the training, Soldiers had the opportunity to practice weaving through cones, driving on slick surfaces and testing their ability to react to different scenarios.
Sgt. First Class George Flores, PHA-RP senior operations non-commissioned officer, was with the Soldiers on the day of the training. He said they were expecting a PowerPoint presentation and were surprised when they learned they would actually be driving.
"They got to practice driving on a slick surface and slamming on the brakes or turning abruptly -- and they got to do this in both a station wagon and van so that they could see how each handled," Flores said.
Feedback from the training was positive. The Soldiers who participated said the training helped increase their confidence and also built their technical competence.
"Soldiers thought this would have been beneficial to do as part of inprocessing," Flores added. "They have to take the [U.S. Army Europe] drivers test, but then once they pass they are handed the keys to a big van -- with no hands-on training. "
Last year the unit recorded six driving incidents. The estimated cost of damages per incident, according to PHA-RP, is $1,000.
While no serious or life threatening incidents have occurred, the unit wanted to develop a tool that could help prevent any future incidents.
"For me, as the commander, my perspective is, if you're going to give an employee a tool to do the job, they need to know how to use that tool, otherwise it becomes inefficient and dangerous," Spicer said.
Soldiers who participated in this first iteration of training were identified because they had been driving when an incident occurred or had an incident while driving off-duty.
"We looked at who would benefit the most from additional training," Moser said.
"Some of these Soldiers have only been driving a year -- and during that time they probably weren't driving a station wagon or van, like they are required to for our mission," Moser said.
Soldiers who participated came from units throughout the PHA-RP footprint -- which spans from Belgium all the way to the Vilseck, Germany area.
Spicer said they plan to continue this training at least once a quarter. "It is certainly worth the bang for the buck."
According to Spicer, the unit spent about $2,000 to train their 12 Soldiers but believes the benefits far outweigh the cost.
"We will prove effectiveness by tracking the metrics and measuring the impact this training will hopefully have on driving down the cost of damages that we avoid," he said. "I hope we have the ability to export this. I am sure we aren't the only ones with these challenges. We may drive a bit more, but I think it's important to take advantage of all the training resources out there."