STAFF SGT. DAVID DEGRAVE
10th Combat Aviation Brigade
10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry)
Fort Drum, N.Y.
I’m not sure of the statistics, but there’s no doubt in my mind that numerous Army accidents have occurred because we, as Soldiers, have become complacent in our everyday activities. If we stop for a moment and think, we can probably remember instances when we were complacent. Many of our jobs are repetitive in nature, and the more we repeat what we’re doing, the better the chance we become complacent without even realizing it.
A few years ago, as we began the back half of a deployment in Afghanistan, there were numerous instances of complacency among Soldiers in my aviation unit. The command quickly realized this hazardous trend and implemented control measures to prevent needless accidents. The same school of thought should be applied at home base. We need to keep ourselves from becoming complacent where we feel most comfortable. Many Soldiers may wonder why commanders and noncommissioned officers keep reiterating that it’s important to always keep a fresh eye open. It’s because a majority of us (leaders) realize some tasks are repetitive and we’ve seen the effects of complacency. The bottom line is all Soldiers, no matter their rank, need to remain vigilant.
I’m sure we’ve all heard the statement, “We’ve always done it that way.” Safety shouldn’t be treated like a light switch that you can turn on or off. The safety switch must be “on” continuously. Just because we feel safe doesn’t mean we are. On the contrary, feeling safe all the time could be the biggest threat to our well-being because that means we are drifting into a complacent mode.
One key to avoid the complacency trap is to form safety habits. Putting these habits into action daily, 24/7, will help save lives. Supervisors should do routine spot checks because Soldiers do what they know will be checked.
J.C. Ryle wrote, “Do not suppose that it needs some great scarlet sin to bring you to the pit of destruction. You have only to sit still and do nothing, and you will find yourself there at last.” I challenge all leaders, myself included, to fight and keep our Soldiers safe from the evil of complacency.