By Staff Sgt. Matthew ZierMay 11, 2011
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - Safety is one of the Army's primary concerns during operations in garrison and combat environments. Just because a unit is deployed to a forward location does not mean safety can or should be compromised. The Safety and Environmental offices here in Zone 6 believe in these statements to the fullest.
Master Sgt. Kevin Dugrenier, of Concord, N. H., began his tour here in December 2010, with the 197th Fires Brigade, a National Guard unit comprised of units from all across the New England area. His primary mission during the deployment is to inspect the motor pools within the working areas of the various units located in Zone 6. When the 197th took over the Zone 6 Mayor's Cell for Camp Arifjan, there was an average of eight safety infractions throughout the zone. In just the past 4 months, Dugrenier's regular inspections have reduced that average to two.
"Safety is an unforgiving job," said Dugrenier. In most cases, when units find out about upcoming inspections, there is a negative stigma attached to the individual conducting the inspection. Dugrenier has found a way around this. As Dugrenier conducts an inspection of a motor pool for the first time, he tells the crew, "you don't work for me, I work for you. I'm here to help you." Durgrenier continued, "I'm here to make sure that all your Soldiers go home with their fingers and toes."
From the environmental view, the motor pools had been doing rather well in keeping up their areas. Staff Sgt. Thomas Lambert, from Sharon Springs, N.Y., and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Tom Graham, head the 197th's Environmental Program. "Environmental sometimes runs into the safety requirements," said Graham, a Boscawen, N.H., native. "Most of the motor pools were doing well in the environmental requirements," said Graham, "so we determined including safety was one of the better ways to determine the winner."
When units are on convoy missions, there is imminent danger on the road. When they return from those missions, they tend to become complacent. Here in Kuwait, motor pools are the battlefield. Safety and environmental issues can turn a normal workday full of routine maintenance into complete chaos, with someone going to the hospital because they forgot to take off a wedding band. When Durgrenier conducts his inspections, one of the first things he does is survey the area. He is looking for the small things, like the wedding band or other jewelry some of the mechanics may have forgotten to take off.
"It also comes down to general housekeeping," said Graham. He continued, "there were nights we would drive around after-hours and just take a look at how they left their shops." Attention to detail on both the big and little things is what made the Illinois Army National Guard's 1244 Transportation Company the Best Motor Pool Award Winner for Zone 6 in January 2011. This team of mechanics, headquartered at Delavan, Ill., took the time and effort to see these "little things" were not overlooked. Their hard work and dedication to doing a job well began to spread throughout their battalion. After their second consecutive award in February, several of the other motor pools took note and tried to do better.
Upon winning three straight months, the 1244th received its first true competition. Mannheim, Germany's 51st Transportation Company arrived at Camp Arifjan in mid-February. Too late for them to make the cut for March's competition, the winners of multiple awards for "Best Motor Pool in U.S. Army Europe" set their sights high. For the month of April, the 51st overtook the 1244th by just a small margin. "We took our best three (reports) and Safety's best three (reports) to see who the winner was," said Lambert. "Safety had the 1244th and the 51st in their top three," commented Graham, "but the 51st came out higher on the environmental list, making them the winner."
On May 5, the 51st Transportation Company received the trophy for best motor pool for Zone 6 for the month of April. The trophy, made of an oil drum, pump, and other various maintenance bay parts, is like the Stanley Cup for motor pools. It rotates from unit to unit each month, depending on the winner, and is placed in front of the winner's motor pool for all to see.
"As a general rule, Soldiers love to compete," said Dugrenier, "if you give them something to compete for, most of the time the units will try to do better than each other." In the case of this competition, the winners were ultimately the entire Army as well as the environment.