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We've Always Done it That Way

We've Always Done it That Way

Avoiding the complacency trap

Weve always done it this way


Fort Rucker, Alabama

Complacency is a known problem in the Army and often recognized as a causal factor in mishaps. Sometimes we take shortcuts because we’ve become complacent and more lax about our personal safety. The places that feel the most familiar can be the most unsafe because the menace is not always so obvious. When we feel confident that an environment is stable, we often forget things are subject to change. Situations can become unsteady in an instant, so we must remember there’s always the potential for a catastrophe.

Several years ago, my transportation unit was attached to a heavy equipment transporter company in Iraq. We were responsible for transporting tanks, Strykers and other equipment that needed to be moved throughout the country. As you can imagine, we traveled many miles, often spending hours or days on end driving until we were exhausted. After long trips, it was common for our unit to stop the convoy and check our trucks and the loads for damage. After doing this so many times throughout our rotation, it became routine. Soldiers were becoming complacent, sometimes forgetting the dangers lurking out there. 

One day, we stopped on a road somewhere in north central Iraq. We got out and were checking the loads when all of a sudden we heard a panicked scream over the radio repeating, “IED! IED!” Sure enough, there was an IED lying on the side of the road, right in the middle of the convoy! Thankfully, the enemy wasn’t around to detonate it, so we averted disaster. Had we been more vigilant and aware of our surroundings, I’m confident we would’ve selected a safer spot to stop. Situational awareness saves lives, especially during combat operations.

For me, it’s scary to think what it takes to wake up an organization. This was a prime example of complacency. A simple task completed so many times in the past could’ve turned tragic quickly. 

If we stop for a moment and think, I’m sure we can all come up with instances when we’ve been complacent. It happens because we perform many functions on a continuous basis. Many of our jobs are repetitive in nature; and the more we repeat a task, the better the chance we have of becoming complacent.

How many times have you heard someone say, “We’ve always done it that way,” when questioned about why they performed a task a certain way? Since it has stood the test of time, then it must be correct to complete the task properly, right? Well, that’s not necessarily true. The very fact that the task is repeated often can draw us into the complacency trap. We learn to expect proven results until one day the outcome changes for the worse. Stay alert, stay alive and remain diligent in your mishap prevention efforts.



  • 25 August 2019
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 543
  • Comments: 0

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