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Think Before You Act

Think Before You Act

G3, Investigations, Reporting and Tracking
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Rucker, Alabama

For several years, the U.S. Army has experienced an increase in Soldiers dying in off-duty mishaps. Whether they were driving a vehicle, riding a motorcycle, swimming, walking or handling a privately owned weapon, one thing always seems to ring true: either the mishap Soldier or another individual did not apply real-time risk management (RM) before engaging in that off-duty activity. Simply stated, there was no intuition or conscious reasoning associated with the potential outcome of their actions prior to their death.

Leaders can train Soldiers to a standard on the range, in a classroom or for an evaluation, but where is the standard for real-time risk? The bottom line is it’s a moving target. Given the situation, conditions, time available and circumstances, some risks are capable of being managed. However, training intuition and foresight to the point of conscious reasoning, although not a discipline, is also an art that can be learned and enhanced if applied routinely.

What looks risky to one person may not generate the same level of concern or risk to another and vice versa. Based on the five-step RM process per Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 5-19, Soldiers can learn to apply it to day-to-day activities on and off duty if they learn to think before they act! Thinking before you act sounds simple; however, the practice is one of the hardest techniques to train, implement and consistently practice.

Teaching someone to “see the future” and forecast the possible outcome(s) based on intuition and experience is the same as teaching real-time RM. Soldiers need to consider the potential outcome of one’s actions before acting. Is what I am about to do safe? Are the risks worth it? Am I willing to face the potential consequences of my actions? Have I applied real-time RM?

Some off-duty activities and events, regardless of the level of assessment and risk level mitigation applied, will never pass the common-sense test. For example, driving intoxicated or playing with a firearm after consuming alcohol are never good ideas. Both could easily result in consequences that could significantly impact the safety or life of the Soldier or someone else. Knowing cognitive faculties are the first affected by consuming alcohol — as well as understanding that alcohol levels as low as .02% can impair reasoning, thereby potentially clouding opportunities for real-time risk techniques — should automatically trigger an intuition within a Soldier that driving a vehicle at a high rate of speed or playing with a handgun after drinking is never a good idea. In fact, any time we consume alcohol, the idea of mixing it with any other activity should automatically raise a red flag that you should stop and think before you act.

Obviously, predicting the future isn't realistic; however, reflecting on past experiences, or using the common-sense test (or sound judgment), we know that “if we do this, then that will happen” is applying real-time RM to your actions. “My actions could result in the following consequences and/or unwanted outcomes.”

In short, applying real-time risk techniques is the first step to minimizing or potentially eliminating unexpected risk of injury or death. However, certain activities like drinking and driving are never a good idea and may even be criminal. There is never an excuse for criminal activities. Applying RM to these types of events is not the intent of thinking before you act unless the thought is to not engage in the activity in the first place.

Thinking before you act and applying common-sense mitigation before you engage in off-duty activities is the application of real-time RM. It’s not magic. A real-time mental risk assessment, or common-sense mitigation, is basically learning to wargame the consequences and potential outcomes of an action or activity. The goal is to minimize risk by weighing the consequences of your actions. Learning effective strategies to think before you act far outweighs the aftereffect where you may find yourself saying, "If I only would've / could've / should've, this wouldn't have happened."

  • 1 April 2023
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 309
  • Comments: 0