DANIEL McGLONE AND CAPT. CHARLIE DIETZ
214th Fires Brigade
Fort Sill, Okla.
The Soldier mentality isn’t one that usually sets a priority on safety. Most Soldiers instinctively realize that they’ll be taking risks consistently throughout their career. Someone scared of risks traditionally isn’t the type of person who would even think about joining the military. Col. Timothy Daugherty, brigade commander for the 214th Fires Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, at Fort Sill knew this when he took command in June 2011. With more than 24 years experience, Daugherty knew the thought process of Soldiers, both young and old.
One of his first challenges was changing the brigade’s safety culture from a “mission first and safety whenever time permits” approach to a “mission first and safety always” mentality. Leadership involvement was the focus in ensuring safety culture would become a top priority within the unit. Immediately, Daugherty issued a challenge to the leadership of the unit: Change the safety culture of the brigade through engaged and experienced leadership, active Soldier participation, training and competition.
The change needed to be simple with achievable goals. One program the Army implemented to assist in changing the culture and recognizing units for their accomplishments is outlined in Army Regulation 385-10, the Army Safety Program. An award within the program is the Army Safety Excellence Streamer.
Daugherty implemented a streamer program to award units that earned superior achievement in mission-essential task list tasks, but he wanted to take it a step further. He incorporated the Army Safety Excellence Streamer award into the brigade’s streamer program. The requirements for the streamer, with exception to the accidents, were already part of the Army’s mandatory training. To be eligible for the award, organizations had to meet the following eligibility criteria: Twelve consecutive months without experiencing a Soldier/unit at-fault Class A or B accident and 100 percent completion of composite risk management training along with completing the Army Readiness Assessment Program. Soldiers were required to complete the online CRM training, which helps them understand the decision-making process and trains them to mitigate risk associated with hazards that have the potential to harm or kill them or damage or destroy equipment.
Changing the safety culture within the brigade required actively engaged leaders and Soldiers to identify hazards, which, in turn, helped improve the safety culture within the brigade. Daugherty also conducted random back briefs with commanders and leaders about their risk assessments. He reassured them that changing the unit’s mindset to one of safety as a priority would result in reduced Soldier issues and accidents. He was correct.
To date, the brigade has seen a reduction in recordable accident rates. Recordable accidents dropped 47 percent when compared fiscal 2011 and 2012. In addition, non-recordable accident (near-miss) reporting increased by 30 percent. This increase allows the leadership to implement mitigation procedures to reduce or prevent accidents within their formation.
Since adding the Army Safety Excellence Streamer into the brigade’s streamer program, 10 units earned the award. In addition to the streamer, numerous units within the brigade have been nominated for the Army Accident Prevention Award of Accomplishment.
Another resource that helped the unit considerably was the Army Readiness Assessment Program. ARAP is designed as a battalion commander’s tool, addressing root causes of accidental loss by focusing on organizational safety climate and culture. The program is comprised of a 63-question online assessment, filled out by the Soldiers anonymously, that captures a unit’s posture on command and control, standards of performance, accountability and risk management.
ARAP provides battalion-level commanders with data on their formation's readiness posture. This program benefits the commander by informing him or her of the safety culture within the battalion through boots-on-the-ground sources. The commander can make changes or improvements to the safety program based on the results of the survey. Daugherty knew this type of assessment would allow everyone to have input into the safety program and assist in growing the knowledge of every Soldier within the ranks.
To further leadership involvement in the streamer program, the brigade requires all incoming commanders and first sergeants to complete the commander’s safety course, and all noncommissioned officers must complete the additional duty safety officer course. Completion of these courses reinforces the 214th Fires Brigade commitment to changing the safety culture. As evident in the reduction in accident rates, leadership and Soldier involvement with a little competition has proven to be a proper recipe for changing Soldiers’ understanding and mindset of safety.