By Sgt. Robert Schaffner Jr., 4th IBCT, 3rd ID Public AffairsJuly 15, 2010
FORT STEWART, Ga. - Most people look to the skies to star gaze. If you were on Georgia Hwy 144 a few miles outside the gate Friday afternoon, you just may have seen one star a little closer to the horizon. Brigadier General Jeffrey Phillips, 3rd Infantry Division deputy commanding general-rear, was in the sky - 24 feet up, to be exact - with the help of an elevated SkyWatch tower.
Brigadier General Phillips visited with Fort Stewart's military police and toured their new SkyWatch Tower, seeing first-hand its ability to detect, prevent and deter vehicle speeding.
The tower gives military police deterrence and surveillance capabilities that can dramatically extend observation range. Video cameras also provide telescopic zooming and recording, radio and a public address system, as well as the capability to increase the range of radar up to two miles. They detect you before your eyes detect them.
"It's not all about catching speeders," said Capt. David Reaves, Fort Stewart Traffic Operations Branch officer in-charge. "It's also about preventing people from speeding by showing a presence. At one time, Fort Stewart was in the top three for traffic fatalities in Georgia and in the top two in the Army."
Georgia Highway 144, a two-lane road walled with tall pines, has been dubbed "The Green Tunnel." As with nearby Ga. Highway 119, there's not much to look at and drivers can be lulled into inattention with disastrous results: the road continues to be the scene of traffic accidents and fatalities.
In 2006, the tree line was pushed back on either side, both for a fire break, and to give drivers a better view for passing and a better chance of missing trees should they accidently leave the road.
"It's all about safety," said Brig. Gen. Phillips.
The Green Tunnel overflows with wildlife, which, when combined with speeding, can propose a serious danger to drivers.
"A big raccoon ran out in front of me the other night," said Brig. Gen. Phillips. "That's how people get killed. Even if you miss the critter, you may veer into a swamp-filled ditch."
Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield law enforcers hope increased enforcement will deter speeding among Soldiers returning home from deployment.
"We are hoping that the word will get out from friends and Family here, those who have not left during the deployments, to the Soldiers down-range and will prevent Soldiers from being killed," said Maj. Eddy Cloud, Marne Division's deputy director of emergency services. "If we are able to get six out of seven drivers to slow down, that will possibly help deter that [seventh] driver from speeding. . . . Most people are driving cautiously and respecting the law."
Recently, MPs have been submitting a weekly list of full names of servicemembers, including unit/agency, location of offense and points lost due to the violations. To date, the list has comprised of ranks from private through colonel, sparing no one.
"We are trying to get unit peer pressure to do the right thing," said Maj. Cloud. "We have received support from the battalion and brigade level, but the responsibility is resting more upon the company-grade commanders."
Currently, only the names of service-members are printed in The Frontline, but the possibility of including the names of Family Members, Department of the Army civilians and contractors who violate traffic laws on the installation is under review.
"To ensure safety on our roads, we will expect responsible conduct from everyone who uses them," Brig. Gen. Phillips said. "Not only does an accident affect the person in the car or motorcycle, it devastates those who care for the victim."