Instilling an atmospheric attitude to safety at combat training centers

By Ms. Joyce Costello ( Hohenfels )December 6, 2019

Safety culture priority
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The OC/T rolls in ensuring safety
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OC/T feedback session
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HOHENFELS, Germany -- Life can change within inches and seconds for troops training at the Hohenfels training area where they can quickly find themselves in degraded visual environments and challenging terrains that change with the weather. With the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center reporting 17 Army fatalities in October and November 2019 of which 29.4% have been in Army vehicles, there is a huge incentive for the Observer Coach/ Trainers to instill a culture of safety amongst all of the multinational troops training at Hohenfels.

"We do a lot of complex and high risk training at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center so we are always looking at near misses and unit discipline, such as wearing seatbelts and conducting preventive maintenance checks and services to forecast the safety of the unit and do corrective specialty training," said Lt. Col. Christopher Blaha, JMRC Operations Office.

Indeed, when Col. Andrew Hilmes and Command Sgt. Maj. William Gardner, the commander and the command sergeant major of the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center, visited JMRC on Thursday, one of the first questions they asked the Observer Coach/ Trainers was "How do you mitigate risk and manage on-duty ground roll-overs?"

According to Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Wilson, Timberwolves team, they have added grade percentage signs as well as an increased focus on ground guides and seat belts.

"In our team, we talk about not just getting there safely and using ground guides, but also ask ourselves where are we placing the OC/T's? This placement can really make a difference when you're not in the rear," said Wilson.

Lt. Col. Johnny Evans, Grizzly team, added "Here we have the OC/T's pressure and enforce the standards before a unit moves out. We ask an array of questions related to risk management as well as risk mitigation. This is especially important as people may try to mitigate outcomes, but they need to look as initial and residual risk throughout the exercise."

"As OC/Ts you ask yourself 'how are we driving change in the behavior to meet the standard'," further added Lt. Col. Charles Ford, Timberwolves team.

Additionally, in order to help influence behaviors and keep soldiers safe while training, the OC/T Academy has roll-over training that involves a HMMWV Egress Assistance Trainer. This helps troops to practice how to survive in the event of an inverted situation.

With the upcoming Combined Resolve XIII exercise at JMRC and impending Bavarian winters looming, the OC/T's safety culture continues to be aimed at preventing loss and protecting people.