By Master Sgt. Doug SampleOctober 27, 2010
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 27, 2010) -- The number of accidental deaths in the Army has dropped dramatically in recent years, from 299 deaths in 2005 to just 179 in 2010. However, those grim numbers still trouble Brig. Gen. Bill Wolf, director of Army Safety, whose primary responsibility is reducing risks and keeping Soldiers safe.
"We are winning this fight and bringing the numbers down over the last many years, but its still a continuous war," Wolf said during an interview Tuesday while attending the annual Association of the United States Army Meeting and Exposition.
It's a war that Wolf -- who also serves as commanding general of the Army Combat Readiness and Safety Center, Fort Rucker, Ala. -- said the Army is fighting with a three-tiered approach: a more engaged leadership, better trained Soldiers, and the support of family.
"I attribute the fact that our numbers are coming down to a lot of factors," Wolf said. "Our leadership has gotten engaged, both at the junior officer and noncommissioned officer level, all the way up to the top. Our leadership has always been engaged, but absolutely now more than ever, everyone understands the issue of trying to protect our most precious resource, our Soldier."
Wolf also emphasized the role many Soldiers are taking to reduce the accidental death toll. He said Soldiers today are smarter and better trained to understand risky behavior through Composite Risk Management, a program the Army designed to teach Soldiers how to identify hazards, reduce risk, and prevent both accidental and tactical loss. And, he added, Soldiers are taking the Army's Warrior Ethos to task and looking out for each other.
"That Warrior Ethos that we as Soldiers have put our arms around, I think our Soldiers today have embraced -- the idea of looking out for each other, the battle buddy, the band of brothers and sisters," Wolf explained. "They understand it clearly while on duty, but we have to continue that thought process while off duty as well."
The general was referring to Army statistics that show most Army accidental deaths occur while Soldiers are off duty. In 2010 there were 129 accidental fatalities compared to only 50 while on the job. Sixty-five percent of off-duty deaths occurred while Soldiers were operating privately owned vehicles, he said.
"The biggest challenge we have as leaders is trying to keep them safe when they are off duty, away from their formations, and making bad decisions," Wolf pointed out. "We're trying to get ahead of that, and trying to ensure that they understand the risk, whether it be wearing a seat belt or putting on the proper protective equipment, and making the right decisions when they are out there."
But perhaps the Army's best ally in mitigating risks and accidental deaths is on the home front, Wolf said. He noted that family and community support for Soldiers is helping reduce the numbers as well.
"Our families are getting more engaged and they can make a difference in our Soldiers' lives," he said. "So we're trying to continue engaging them to make sure they help along the way in trying to help and protect our Soldiers."