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Battling Boredom

Battling Boredom

S Troop, 4th Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment
Fort Hood, Texas

Not all on-duty mishaps occur in tactical vehicles or aircraft. The things Soldiers do during downtime can just as easily affect mission readiness. In the age of multiple deployments and constant combat operations, Soldiers don’t always have a lot of free time. Compounding the issue is the Army’s idea of time management. Commanders are required to accomplish many tedious tasks in garrison. The problem is these tasks often end up taking longer than needed. That means Soldiers stand around waiting for either confirmation of completion or awaiting decisions on what to do next. The result of these actions (or inactions) is Soldiers sometimes end up disgruntled, impatient and bored with time on their hands and nothing to do. Boredom can mean big trouble when Soldiers come up with creative time-killers — some which might surprise you.

One task all Soldiers have been involved in at one point or another is inventorying unit military-owned demountable containers (MILVANs). We inventory what we have, turned in what we can no longer use and consolidate the number of MILVANs needed. We’d done this many times before, only this particular time, all personnel were required to participate. The problem we discovered was we had a full crew involved with each phase of work. The task was completed quickly, which meant the Soldiers had to wait around until we could check the work so they could progress to the next phase.

So what happens when you have large groups of Type A personalities with MILVANs full of equipment and time to kill? That afternoon turned into a safety nightmare. The first MILVAN became a rodeo riding station. The two UH-60 extended-range fuel tanks stacked in storage cradles apparently resembled mechanical bulls. Soldiers were riding high atop the tanks, swinging their headgear into the air. Of course, phones clicked away and videoed the scene.

An adjacent MILVAN was apparently our own little Ringling Bros. stage. I’ve seen circus animals balance on balls since I was little; but I had never seen a Soldier hop onto an empty ammo can and roll across the motor pool while imitating a seal. The phones came out again. Fortunately, no one was injured.

Our Soldiers incorporate risk management and mitigate hazards in daily tasks and operations. The problem begins when they complete the task. Boredom sets in and the restlessness leads to a creative use of time. These individuals don’t identify the hazards or apply risk management to their downtime activities. Instead, they laugh and say, “Watch him bust his head open on that crate!” Almost no one ever intervenes or speaks up because they don’t want to be the party pooper and ostracized by the group.

We spend so much of our careers working around hazardous material. By nature, it’s what the military does. What makes us military professionals is that we understand the risks associated with everything we do and apply risk management to mitigate those hazards to the lowest level possible. It’s a shame we throw out that thought process as soon as we get bored.

Leaders are responsible to manage their Soldiers so that they don’t have time on their hands with nothing productive to do. We need to teach them that risk management applies to everything. We can’t afford to survive a deployment only to lose combat strength while horsing around due to boredom.

  • 6 February 2022
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 1562
  • Comments: 0