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Fatalities don’t just happen on the battlefield

October 12, 2010

You can take the girl away from the Army, but you can’t take the Army Safety message away from the girl. A former colleague just sent me some updates from the Army Safety Center and reminded me of the continued issue safety plays for Soldiers. It’s an issue that’s easily lost in the news cycle, and all too often forgotten even among leaders with the obligation to train their Soldiers on proper safety, but it’s critically important.

One event I worked with for several years at the Pentagon was motorcycle safety day. And I didn’t just support it because I wanted an excuse to ride a motorcycle in the middle of the work day, I supported it because anyone who’s lived on or around a military installation knows the prevalence of motorcycles among Soldiers. One story from 2008 really struck a chord – according to that year’s casualty figures more Marines had died stateside in motorcycle accidents than were killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The Army finished the last fiscal year with 177 accidental fatalities, four more than the year before, which is a statistical trend no one wants to see. Statistics show on-duty fatalities stabilizing but off-duty fatalities increasing, which means safety information is getting out there but too many Soldiers are making the choice to ignore the risks on their off-duty, personal time.

In the military, you’re used to uncertainties and unknowns. While our military certainly tries to prepare for every contingency it’s also a part of military training to create adaptable Soldiers who are ready to take on the unexpected. But accepting the loss of hundreds of lives due to safety fatalities is simply not acceptable.

In that vein I have to give the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center credit – they’ve managed to create a website that’s actually functional with useful information, as well as being visually appealing. That’s not always the case for .mil websites, in my experience. And peer mentoring, family support, and the battle-buddy concept are all key components of their strategy to get safety information into the hands of Soldiers.

The ability for all service members and family members to be able to access information quickly and easily on the web is no small thing. In our “old school” military the obligation was on leaders to impart information down through the chain of the command to get to Soldiers at every rank. That’s still incredibly important, but for an increasingly mobile generation, the ability to get information on their own through web channels is also critical, especially when trying to empower family members with information. While some of the information on the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center website is locked behind Army Knowledge Online (the Army’s internal information sharing portal), most of it is fully accessible for anyone wanting the resources – which is absolutely critical for issues such as safety, where it’s often a peer, parent or spouse who compels you to make the right choice.

I sat through enough safety briefings to want to take the issue lightly. But our service members are much too precious to lose to an accident, and we need to take every step to get resources and information to our service members. If you’re in the military or not, I encourage you to check out and note the resources and tips there. It’s good information for any person, parent or friend to take into consideration. Because we don’t all always have a drill sergeant at our shoulder, forcing us to make the right choice.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 12, 2010 3:54 pm

    Great article. It doesn’t take much to take a life. One moment, one click. You are doing well, my friend.

    Nice video too, but what was going on with that drill sergeant hat? It looked like an old state trooper hat from a thrift store. 😉

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