By Julie Shelley
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
With vacations, longer training days and PCS moves, there’s a lot going on for Soldiers and families throughout the summer.
Unfortunately, though, spring and summer are the deadliest time of year for Army mishaps, both on and off duty. The U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., has a plan in place to heighten awareness of hazards and help leaders and Soldiers mitigate their risk, whatever their mission or personal plans.
Brig. Gen. Andrew C. Hilmes, USACRC commanding general and Army Safety director, said, “Between additional training time on duty and more leisure travel off duty, the Army’s risk profile naturally rises with the temperature.”
A particularly important time for safety is the 101 Critical Days of Summer, according to Bridget Pilgrim, Belvoir installation safety officer. “The campaign runs from Memorial through Labor Day and provides critical information for everyone to take action to mitigate risks.
“Summer is here and it’s the time for safety to be in everyone’s mind,” Pilgrim said.
“It’s the largest vacation period of the year. Also, the sun is shining and people are out swimming; boating; visiting family and friends far away; playing and having a good time,” she said.
“Playing it safe is crucial to having a good time at celebrations and get-togethers and while recreating,” Pilgrim said.
She also asked Soldiers and family members, leaders and civilians to be aware they may be staying awake longer hours and driving more miles than usual during the summer and what they need to do, personally, to stay safe.
According to the Combat Readiness Center, during the past two fiscal years, 91 Soldiers died in off-duty, third- or fourth-quarter mishaps. An additional 21 Soldiers were killed in mishaps on duty.
“The vast majority of our fatal mishaps occur in vehicles, and that holds true, on and off duty,” said Command Sgt. Maj. William L. Gardner II at the Readiness Center. “And, it requires a lot of our focus.
“However, we can’t forget about other hazards, like heat illness for those who work or train outside; and off-duty drowning, which have increased the past few fiscal years,” Gardner said.
“We really just want to hit all the areas where we typically lose Soldiers to mishaps, especially as pandemic-related restrictions ease across the country and we return to a more normal operating posture,” Hilmes said. “These campaigns are our effort to make everyone aware of the hazards and be informed when they make decisions, regardless of activity. Getting back on track, both professionally and personally from last year, our Soldiers and families will be busier than they’ve been in a long time.”
Pilgrim said she’s worried people will become complacent about being safe, especially coming out of a pandemic. “A lot of accidents are avoidable,” she said. “We have to be careful, almost with a sense of urgency, now. Safety needs to be involved in everything we do. Plan your activities to include safety.”
Information is available by searching Safety Office on home.army.mil/belvoir; and risk-management toolkits are available for leaders and Soldiers at safety.army.mil.
Editor’s note: Margaret Steele contributed to this story.