FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- A brigade from the 82nd Airborne Division was recognized as the Army's safest brigade by the command sergeant major of U.S. Army Forces Command at the division headquarters, Aug. 5.

Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Carey presented the 1st Brigade Combat Team with the Secretary of the Army and Chief of Staff of the Army Award for Excellence in Safety for having the best brigade safety program in the Army for fiscal year 2008. The brigade was also awarded the Director of the Army Safety Composite Risk Management Award for reducing accidents by more than 50 percent over the same period.

Carey applauded the brigade for significantly reducing accidents while continuing to push the envelope.

"Over two quarters, they cut accidents in half each time. That's the commander, that's the sergeant major, that's the whole chain of command and NCO support channel taking great effort in making sure our Soldiers stay safe," said Carey. "We understand Soldiers get hurt in training. We understand Soldiers get hurt in war. That's part of things we have to deal with. What we can't understand is the Soldiers who get hurt needlessly when they are off duty.

"The fact that we have been able to cut the accidents down is really remarkable and just shows how good this brigade is and how disciplined this brigade is as they prepare to go off to war," said Carey.

"Since the brigade is deploying to Iraq again...the timing of this recognition could not be better," said Col. Mark R. Stammer, commander of the Devil Brigade.

"With our deployment to Iraq, we begin the defense of these two titles, not for the attention, the accolades or these nice trophies, but because if we are successful, it will mean we have created the safest conditions possible for our paratroopers to operate within," said Stammer.

The brigade's safety program relies on rewards instead of punishment, said brigade safety officer, Dale Wagner, a retired paratrooper who designed the program.

Every quarter companies with zero accidents receive a safety-excellence guidon streamer. Army Achievement Medals are awarded to the platoon with the most accident-free miles per quarter and to the best truck crew per month. The awards are presented in battalion formation before peers, said Wagner.

When the plan was implemented, accidents dropped 50 percent each quarter over the year-long deployment in Iraq, beginning with 36 accidents that included two vehicle fires and millions of dollars in damage to a low of two or thee in the last quarter, said Wagner.