Leaders from the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center (USACRC) recently shared the organization’s vision for reducing Army mishaps to more than 100 attendees of safety professionals at the National Safety Council’s annual Congress and Expo in San Diego, California, which ran Sep. 19-22, 2022.
Brig. Gen. Gene Meredith, director of Army Safety and commanding general at the USACRC, highlighted current Army mishap data and contrasted it with that of the general U.S. population as compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor.
“We do dangerous things in the Army,” said Meredith. “But it’s still safer to be in the Army than it is to be in the general U.S. public with regard to mishap fatalities.”
In FY21, the Army lost 105 Soldiers to fatal mishaps. Off-duty accidents accounted for 85 Soldiers lost and on-duty accidents accounted for 20. With those loses, it was the Army’s lowest number in history.
FY21 on-duty ground Soldier fatality rate was 1.3 fatalities per 100,000 Soldiers while the U.S. work-related fatality rate was 3.4 per 100,000 adult working civilians.
“Each year we drive more than 200 million vehicle miles, fire more than 500 million rounds of ammunition, and conduct more than 180 thousand parachute jumps,” added Meredith. “Our Army’s safety culture, shaped from the top, has had an incredibly positive effect on our force, all the way down to our junior leaders.”
Off-duty fatal mishaps, which historically outnumber on-duty mishaps by three-to-one, remain the Army’s greatest killer of Soldiers. Of the 85 Soldiers killed in off-duty mishaps, 72 (85%) resulted from motor vehicle accidents.
The Army off-duty driving fatality rate is 6.3 fatalities per 100,000, which is just over half of the general population of 11.7 per 100,000.
“Regardless of any trend we see – a good year or bad year – we do not rest as the goal is ‘zero’ mishaps, ‘zero’ fatalities,” said Meredith. “We routinely talk in numbers and data sets, but we must remember it’s about the loss of a human life – a Soldier’s life. Fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters, friends, and battle buddies are all behind the numbers, and it’s painfully tragic for all of us.”
To highlight the ongoing positive Army safety culture shift, Command Sgt. Maj. James Light, senior enlisted advisor to Gen. Meredith, reviewed the Army’s fatality numbers from 1978, a few short years after the end of the Vietnam War.
“In 1978, our Army lost 647 Soldiers to accidents,” said Light. “We’ve come a very long way since then and I’m confident when I say the safety culture that starts at the top with our Army senior leaders today ends at the bottom with our junior leaders. Those leaders at the company and below set the example for their troops, and enforce standards and discipline. They are role models and their success is our Army’s success.”