NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Leader presence can be one of the greatest single tools for keeping Soldiers protected from the hazards they face on and off duty, the director of Army Safety said recently at the 2019 Army Aviation Mission Solutions Summit in Nashville, Tennessee.

To illustrate that message, Brig. Gen. Timothy J. Daugherty, who also serves as commanding general of the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center, opened his presentation at the summit with a safety lesson he learned early in his military career.

"Prior to Desert Storm, a bunch of artillerymen were building a bunker. The bunker looked good to me, the bunker looked big, and the bunker looked thick," Daugherty said. "One day, we were inside in a meeting and we heard some rumbling out in the area, and we all rushed to the bunker. There had been some pretty heavy rain just prior to LD and that bunker collapsed. It killed two NCOs that day."

Looking back at that mishap, Daugherty determined the cause was a lack of leader presence.

"If we do not take every opportunity to train like we fight with tough, realistic training and also incorporate the concept of risk management to eliminate those preventable accidents that are happening, then we're missing the opportunity, because the risk is going to remain," Daugherty said. "We have to reduce risk as much as our training and operational tempo allows us."

Daugherty addressed leader knowledge, presence and gumption through The Evil Eight, a USACRC initiative comprised of eight behavior changes necessary to mitigate risk and reduce on- and off-duty loss. The first of the eight factors involves military vehicle occupants not wearing seat belts.

"Of the six accidents (fatalities) we have had this year that involved occupants of a military vehicle, none of those six were wearing seat belts," Daugherty said. "Amazing, right? Amazingly disappointing. So did we have a leader who had the gumption to engage? He probably had the knowledge. Was he present at the rehearsal? Did they have a rehearsal?"

Ten topics can help promote a unit's safety culture and mitigate risk related to factors like The Evil Eight, he added. The ten topics include enforcing accountability, establishing redline rules, seeking information on unit safety culture, analyzing and sharing near-miss information, implementing a risk reduction process, conducting rehearsals, teaching Soldiers how to counsel and enforcing the counseling standard, evaluating driver training and licensing programs, developing an out-of-the-box initiative, and leader engagement.

Daugherty also addressed the decrease in fiscal 2019 ground on-duty and manned aviation Class A mishaps as compared to fiscal 2018 statistics for the same time period.

"I think it's a powerful statement for our aviation community that we've not had any (aviation-related) fatalities this year," Daugherty said. "Of the five mishaps we have had this year, two of them are materiel issues, which is also a powerful comment to our safety community in what a great job everyone is doing."

Despite the downward trend in on-duty ground and aviation Class A mishaps, Daugherty warns that leaders and Soldiers cannot let down their guard.

"We lose more Soldiers each year, this includes in our aviation community, to ground accidents than we do in the air," Daugherty said. "The field is doing well, but I am not resigned. We can always improve."

To underscore the importance of mishap prevention, Daugherty pointed out the changes to Army Regulation 600-55, The Army Driver and Operator Standardization Program (selection, training, testing and licensing).

"This new driver training program is going to be a paradigm shift in complexity and in making a difference," Daugherty said. "For most of us in here, we know this has been a hole in our game. We know there has not been the structure, the format or the requirements that are needed to have a really good driver training program."

While in the Nashville area, Brig. Gen. Daugherty met with the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District. He also briefed Army National Guard aviation senior leaders and met with industry leaders at the summit.

"As long as there are preventable risks in the field, I don't think we're ever going to be happy," Daugherty said. "But we think that some of the things you are doing in the field are absolutely making a difference."