FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Feb. 16, 2012) -- The Army's newest accident investigation training facility officially opened with a ribbon cutting at Fort Rucker, Ala., Feb. 14.

The Crash Dynamics Lab, or CDL, which was designed and built by the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, Fort Rucker, features actual crashed vehicles and aircraft to replicate accident scenes and provide training for Army accident investigation students.

"We're offering our accident investigation students real-world accidents that we have investigated and made recommendations on our findings, so they can really learn from an accident that happened in recent times involving current equipment," said Brig. Gen. William T. Wolf, director of Army Safety and commanding general, U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center.

Included in the accident sites recreated in the CDL are mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, known as MRAPs, from Iraq, aircraft accidents that occurred in both the United States and with deployed forces, an auto accident, motorcycle accident and an unmanned aircraft system.

"Our purpose is really to analyze and disseminate the information we collect from these accidents," Wolf added. "And what better way than to recreate a real-world accident that students can learn from so they can move out and conduct their own investigations."

The new facility, three years in the making, updates an older "boneyard" that contained legacy equipment and was much smaller than the new 4-plus-acre CDL.

"Unfortunately, in some of these accidents there were Soldiers who died and we try to learn from what happened and make sure their lives and actions are worth something," Wolf explained.

Seeing the ribbon cutting had special meaning for Perry Alliman, an accident investigation instructor at the USACR/Safety Center, who was one of the individuals instrumental in seeing the new CDL to completion.

"It's amazing when something comes out of your head and turns into reality. It's pretty gratifying and satisfying to see it," said Alliman, a retired Army aviator. "This was a great team effort from a lot of people."

Safety training is geared toward preserving the individuals who make up the nation's military forces, an effort born in the 1970s with the realization too many Soldiers were dying from accidents, said Mike Wesolek, training director, USACR/Safety Center, at the CDL opening.

"We've really ramped up safety training since the 1970s, and each year we get progressively better at identifying and mitigating hazards through training at facilities such as the CDL," he said. "The CDL is just one of the tools we use to lower risk and save lives in the Army."

About 700 students will train annually at the CDL as part of in-residence safety training programs offered through the USACR/Safety Center.