Army Readiness Assessment Program: Changing Army safety culture since 2005

By J.T. Coleman, Communication and Public Affairs, U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center, Fort Rucker, AlabamaOctober 14, 2022

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The Army launched the Army Readiness Assessment Program (ARAP) in 2005 in an effort to provide a tool to battalion commanders that would allow them to objectively measure their unit’s safety culture.

That same year, the Army lost 300 Soldiers to accidents.

At the National Safety Council’s annual Congress and Expo in San Diego, California, in September, Brig. Gen. Gene Meredith, director of Army Safety and commanding general at the USACRC, addressed expo attendees on how ARAP has brought positive changes within the Army’s safety culture.

“We’ve seen a discernable and steady decrease in Soldier fatalities due to accidents since ARAP’s inception,” said Meredith. “In FY21, we lost 105 Soldiers to accidents – that’s a culture shift that’s been constant for nearly two decades.”

To help battalion-level commanders gauge their formation’s readiness posture and safety climate, the USACRC launched ARAP nearly two decades ago. Meredith believes the downward trend in Army mishaps since the tool’s release is a testament to its value to the force.

“ARAP helps leaders focus their risk mitigation and loss-prevention efforts,” Meredith said. “Soldiers and Army civilians provide honest answers to an anonymous, 43-question survey administered within 90 days of a new commander assuming command and a second survey in their second year of command. It’s the closest thing that battalion and brigade commanders have to a crystal ball for gaining insights into their safety programs and their unit’s safety culture.”

To date this fiscal year, the USACRS has debriefed 783 battalions.

Command Sgt. Maj. James Light, senior enlisted advisor to the USACRC commander, said battalion commanders have to understand and embrace different views and perspectives at each level of command. Each generation’s differences tend to influence individual Soldier values, beliefs and norms that make up the overall culture within that particular organization.

“ARAP allows brigade commanders to look downward and see the results of the battalion’s climate survey,” Light said. “After receiving the survey results, the battalion commander briefs his or her brigade commander on the way forward — what positive aspects of the safety culture the battalion will continue and what shortcomings or problem areas require attention.”

If a battalion falls within the fourth quartile — the highest-risk group and one that is most likely to experience a future mishap — the ARAP team contacts the brigade commander to discuss the assessment and offers coaching and mentoring to help improve the safety climate.

Another powerful resource the USACRC uses in its loss-prevention efforts is the analysis of mishap data to help identify developing trends. One such trend was the fourth-quarter aviation spike, which was discovered in the summer of 2019.

“Prior to FY20, we had a disproportionate number of Class A mishaps in the fourth quarter, especially in the month of August,” Meredith said. “Analysis indicated the fourth quarter was complex due to factors present during that particular annual timeframe. We began a significant communication effort across the Army that started in February 2020 that has virtually eliminated the fourth-quarter spike.”

Building on the success of the fourth-quarter spike campaign, the USACRC took a hard look at tactical vehicle mishaps, the biggest on-duty killer of the Army’s ground forces. The data revealed nearly one-third of these mishaps were occurring throughout spring and early summer, particularly during May and June, year after year.

A third-quarter tactical vehicle spike campaign was created to help commanders and Soldiers combat these mishaps. Much like its aviation equivalent, the Army saw a reduction in tactical vehicle mishaps following its release.

In closing, Light said he encourages junior/company-level leaders to never underestimate the level of influence their leadership has on their Soldiers’ behaviors.

“They are role models for their Soldiers and their actions can have a tremendous impact on their Soldiers’ wellbeing,” he said “Whether on or off duty, first-line leaders, armed with tools and information, will have a significant impact on loss prevention.”