In the last article I wrote on this subject, I told you about the 14 off-duty fatalities we had in June 2020 and how it was the worst month for off-duty fatalities this year, and the worst June for off-duty fatalities in 10 years. I talked about the lifting of COVID 19 restrictions and how it seemed many were trying to catch up on their activities after being told to stay home for months. I also told you I was worried about July being worse. I was wrong about that part.
For the first time since we began keeping records at the Safety Center, now Combat Readiness Center, the Army went a full calendar month with only one off-duty accidental fatality of an active-duty Soldier or activated Reservists. The previous calendar month low for fewest Soldier off-duty fatalities in any month was two, in February of 2013 and November 2019. We tragically lost two Soldiers in on-duty mishaps in theater this July, but the off-duty number is inspiring. It’s not just that we went a whole month only losing one Soldier off-duty, it’s the fact that the month was July. July is historically the worst month for off-duty accidents. The highest number of off-duty fatalities in our database for July is 65 in 1975, back when some of your grandfathers were Soldiers. The lowest number previously recorded in July was six in 2014. The average number of off-duty losses for July from 2010 to 2019 is over eleven. There have been fewer than ten fatalities in July only five years since 1974. And though the one we had is one too many, the ten we didn’t is an indicator that we are getting better.
How did that happen? I can’t give COVID 19 all the credit. Nationally, civilian fatality rates per mile driven actually increased since the pandemic and total accidental vehicle fatalities only dropped slightly. I would like to think that this series of articles has influenced many of you, but since I only received 15 “Likes” on the USACRC Facebook page, that’s probably not it. In May, the Sergeant Major of the Army sent a message to all senior NCOs addressing the hazards associated with off-duty summer activities and motorcycle safety. A week before the Memorial Day weekend, the Army Vice Chief of Staff sent us all a message warning us about the upcoming danger period.
At the end of June, our commanding general, Brig. Gen. Andy Hilmes, and Command Sgt. Maj. Lew Gardner published their Independence Day message addressing individual risk management. In mid-July, the Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army’s Office of Safety and Occupational Health sent a message addressing off-duty driving and water safety, typically where Soldiers take the greatest risk during summer. These messages very likely encouraged leaders at all levels to communicate with their Soldiers about the hazards associated with off-duty activities. We at the USACRC have been pushing programs from here for many years hoping they would influence Soldier and Leader behavior.
All of that is good, and had some influence on the force, but it doesn’t explain how we suffered only one loss. What it comes down to is that for at least a month, Soldiers across the force managed their off-duty risks.
You did it. You managed your risks and walked away from what we feared would be a terrible month.
Now I am going to ask for your help. First, we need to keep going. Keep the risks in your daily lives in your thought process. For all of us, avoiding those tragedies is our mission. Second, I would ask you if there was anything different in what your units or leaders did that influenced your activities. Was there something a leader said or did that caused you to pause? Did something we published from here affect you? If so, let us know. We want to share those things with the rest of the Army. Go to our web site and contact us at https://safety.army.mil/HOME/Help-Feedback-Contacts/Feedback . We want your stories and examples of things done right. We’ll share them with the rest of the force and we can keep this going.
With an average of eleven Soldiers lost in each of ten previous Julys, there are ten of you who made better decisions this year. You managed your individual risks. As an Army we mourn the one loss, but celebrate the ten we didn’t lose. Most importantly, your families and your friends can celebrate that you individually managed your risks in July, and can now look forward to Aug