FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Brig. Gen. William T. Wolf, director of Army Safety and commanding general of U.S. Army Combat Readiness / Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., made a stop at Fort Drum May 27 to brief senior leaders during the post's 15th annual Safety Awareness Day.
"We as an Army closed out the year with a reduction in off-duty losses," he said. "That is huge, and it has little to do with what I do. It has everything to do with leadership, Soldiers and Family Members."
Wolf told a group of more than 100 senior commissioned and noncommissioned officers who gathered for a luncheon at the Commons that accidental Soldier fatalities have dropped significantly since military leaders began seriously addressing safety issues in 2005 - the worst year for fatalities in recent history.
"Leadership makes a difference," Wolf said. "This is a big deal to have an entire division focused on safety for a whole day. Leaders set the standard. We all know that in this room. The minute a leader does not enforce a known standard, we have now set a new standard. That's what Soldiers see."
The general, accompanied by his senior NCOIC, Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Eyer, command sergeant major for U.S. Army Combat Readiness / Safety Center, strongly encouraged leaders to stress the use of seat belts and the dangers associated with allowing Soldiers to overload electric circuits. He also pointed out that nine out of 10 aviation accidents are due to human error.
"It's a very unforgiving environment," he said. Pilots should never get "over-confident."
Wolf went on to say that there's a significant need for safety and accident prevention when Soldiers deal with vehicles, weaponry and even physical training, which is the second-largest injury-producing activity in the Army, he said.
Picking up on the themes of weapons and vehicles, Eyer said command-mandated driver training is an essential element of safety.
"The truth of the matter is, we get to choose (our drivers)," Eyer told the group of high-ranking Soldiers. "Our Soldiers downrange don't get to choose their driver. So I put it upon the commands to make sure you have good driver training programs."
Eyer also encouraged leaders to ensure their Soldiers capably handle weapons.
"How often do you see young Soldiers taking a knee and going through weapons handling and being tested by their first sergeants to see if they are competent on those weapons within that organization'" Eyer asked. "And I'm not saying just for PMI (preliminary marksmanship instruction) before the range the next day, but on a regular basis, so that they are competent on their weapons."
Wolf also told leaders two obstacles to continuing to improve safety Armywide are the hasty decisions of off-duty Soldiers and the failure of junior leaders to counsel Soldiers about their off-duty behavior.
"Junior leaders, as great as they are across our force and commanding our Soldiers downrange, still have a problem understanding their responsibilities off duty, and that is where our challenges remain," Wolf said. "Some of that is absolutely the op tempo of the force.
"But the same thing (is true) with our young Soldiers. Great Americans, they are absolutely the next greatest generation ... (they) continue to give everything for our Army each and every day, sometimes paying the ultimate price down range. But that same young man or woman will think nothing on a Friday evening after drinking in the barracks of getting in a car and heading out to Syracuse ... and not buckling their seat belt on top of that."
As he finished his presentation, Wolf sought to drive home his command's commitment to safety.
"Thanks for what you do; I mean that sincerely, both as a senior leader and certainly as director of Army safety," Wolf said. "You're making a difference out there. (Let us know) if there's something we can do to help you in taking care of our most precious resource - our Soldiers."