FORT RUCKER, Ala. (March 22, 2013) -- U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center officials recently hosted Secretary of the Army John McHugh at the center's state-of-the-art Crash Dynamics Lab.

Secretary McHugh visited the facility to see first-hand the rigorous training courses conducted here for safety professionals throughout the Department of Defense.

"This is a one-of-a kind facility," McHugh said. "Its work is important in saving lives through safety awareness and accident prevention."

Each year, approximately 700 personnel - service members and civilians from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines - complete accident investigation training at the Crash Dynamics Lab, or CDL. Based on scenarios from actual Army accidents, students learn investigation techniques to understand and mitigate future mishaps.

"We train more safety professionals here than any other facility in the world," said Brig. Gen. Timothy J. Edens, director of Army Safety and commanding general, USACR/Safety Center. "We develop and equip individuals to support commanders worldwide, no matter the mission."

Fatal Army accidents have declined nearly every year since fiscal year 2007. Fiscal year 2012 was the Army's safest year since Sept. 11, 2001, and the second safest on record.

While improved training opportunities like the CDL better prepare safety professionals to keep Soldiers safe, Edens said the Army's recent success is due to a fundamental shift in the perception of safety at the unit level.

"I'm certain the downward trend in accidental fatalities can be attributed to leaders and Soldiers embracing a strong safety culture within their organizations," Edens said.

McHugh agreed.

"We have to give credit for this success where it's due, to the leaders, Soldiers and Army civilians making safety happen every day, whether in garrison or on the battlefield," he said. "I congratulate our force on a job well done, but caution against falling into the complacency trap, especially as we continue our operational drawdown from theater.

"Home doesn't mean safe, and that's something we all have to work on together," he continued.

McHugh's tour of the CDL was part of his two-day visit to Fort Rucker and the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence.