With humble origins dating back to the Korean War, the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center has become a Department of Defense leader in safety and occupational health training, policy, and accident investigation expertise. Change has been a constant for the organization, and it continues to evolve with the needs of the Army, its sister services and foreign military partners, and the Nation and its people.
Today’s USACRC began as the Army Accident Review Board, a section of the Army Aviation Training Department of the Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, with a staff consisting of only two officers and one enlisted member. The board relocated to Fort Rucker, Alabama, with the U.S. Army Aviation School in 1954 and underwent its first transformation in 1957 as the U.S. Army Board for Aviation Accident Research. It was at this juncture the organization began physical investigation of aviation accidents, as well as research involving aircraft design, operations, training, supervision, maintenance, inspection, and human factors.
The late Vietnam years and postwar era were a time of marked change for the organization, with redesignation in 1972 as the U.S. Army Agency for Aviation Safety, necessitating an expansion of scope to include accident prevention education, safety assistance visits, establishment of aviation safety policy, comprehensive collection of aviation accident data, promotion of systems safety doctrine, and support of selected aspects of the Army’s ground safety program. It was again redesignated in 1978, this time as the U.S. Army Safety Center, a field operating agency of the then-deputy chief of staff for personnel responsible for both the Army’s aviation and ground safety programs. The final change of this era came in 1987, when the center was recast as a field operating agency of the Army chief of staff.
Following 9/11 and commencement of operations in support of the Global War on Terror, DOD leadership recognized the enormous impact of accidental loss on Army readiness. As a result, in January 2005 the USASC was redesignated the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center, with an expanded mission to become the center of gravity for all Army loss. Given manpower and fiscal reductions totaling 39 percent in the ensuing years, however, and an additional mandate in December 2014 to integrate occupational health under the safety umbrella, the need for rescoping the organization’s responsibilities became quickly apparent.
Since early 2015, the USACRC has undergone continuous change to meet these and other ends in accordance with HQDA goals and objectives. An across-the-board restructure was completed in fall 2016 to accomplish delayering and optimize spans of control to maximize efficiency, while a concurrent business needs assessment defined updated requirements for both internal processes and external customer service. The centerpiece of these efforts, namely modernization through a consolidated Army Safety and Occupational Health Management System and its accompanying information technology solution, the Army Safety and Occupational Health Enterprise Information System, is currently in the development phase and was designed to accomplish the goals outlined by senior Army leaders and needs identified through transformation initiatives — including centralized governance — as well as fixes to issues across the spectrum of operations.
Through more than 60 years of existence, the USACRC and its various iterations have all been focused on the singular goal of preventing needless loss, preserving the lives of Soldiers and Army civilians, and maintaining the Army’s status as the world’s most ready and capable military force. Change may be constant, but that commitment remains unwavering.