News: Safety is the Priority for Operation Sandcastle 2009
Story by Staff Sgt. Rauel Tirado
Story by Staff Sgt. Rauel Tirado
204th Public Affairs Detachment
FORT IRWIN, Calif. —The list of dangerous hazards while working and living in a combat environment are countless and the opportunity for injuries or casualties is great. Reducing risks on the battlefield starts with practicing and developing effective safety standards in a controlled training environment, such as the one found here at the National Training Center (NTC) during Operation Sandcastle 2009.
The operation consists of more than 1,800 Soldiers assigned to the 411th Engineer Brigade. The brigade is from the state of New York and 20 combat engineer companies from all over the country are here to participate in construction projects and tactical training across the NTC.
The brigade is conducting a variety of training here and has several construction projects running simultaneously. The Soldiers here face dangerous hazards everyday.
One of those hazards is the environment. The operation is being conducted in the harsh desert climate that best resembles the environment found in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to safety personnel, reducing risk for the safety of the Soldiers will be challenging.
"Many of the Soldiers here are soon deploying overseas," said Command Sergeant Major Benny Hubbard, Safety Officer of the 412th Engineer Command. "Safety and risk management is the key to mitigating injuries and casualties."
Hubbard travels everyday during the operation to different construction sites looking for safety violations. At the same time he also likes to recognize Soldiers for setting the example for safety standards.
"The first thing I look for is that Soldiers are wearing proper equipment such as Kevlar, gloves and eye protection while working with equipment," said Hubbard. "Next, I make sure they are working on the mission and I speak with first line supervisors on ensuring safety measures are in place."
With daily temperatures averaging above 100 degrees here heat casualties pose a very real and potentially deadly hazard.
"Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate!" Hubbard emphasizes. "Most of the Soldiers here are from New York and are not accustomed to this climate. I can't stress enough on hydrating and first line leaders are responsible ensuring that they are mitigating risk."
CSM Hubbard is not traveling alone. He is accompanied by Richard Cunningham, U.S. Army Reserve Command (USARC) safety officer, from Atlanta, Georgia. The two have been making unannounced visits to sites here since the beginning of the operation.
"I've been generally impressed with what I've seen," said Cunningham. "The last unit we visited, the Soldiers had on the proper equipment, and the Additional Duty Safety Officer (ADSO) for the unit was out there with the Soldiers wearing a safety vest and ensuring safety measures were in place."
One of Hubbard's safety inspection stops took place at Forward Operating Base Miami. There he observed Soldiers from the 492nd Engineer Company, who were working on constructing a metal building called a Quonset hut.
Some of the Soldiers were working on ladders and scaffolding at the site, and Hubbard commended them for using the three points of contact method. The method allows both feet and one hand to remain stable on to something at all times while working. This helps a person maintain balance or in case they slip they can hold on to something.
While at the site Hubbard recognized a Soldier with a safety token for his efforts, and he commended the ADSO for keeping the site safe.
"In the 412th Engineer Command, we require all E-7s and above to be ADSO trained," said Hubbard. "We have more than 80 Soldiers qualified. Units may have as many ADSO trained Soldiers as they want." ADSO training course is available online for all Soldiers.
With four battalions and more than 20 engineer companies running multiple missions at different locations throughout the NTC daily, unit ADSO's add value for ensuring safety are being in place for missions. "Mitigating risk is our priority for this mission, from the top level of leadership to the lower level," said Hubbard.
Hubbard and Cunningham have several reporting methods and levels on Safety violations while visiting training sites throughout the operation.
There is the on the spot correction with the Soldier and first line supervisor. This is usually a non-reportable action. Severe actions will be reported to higher commands including USARC.
Reportable actions to USARC have different category levels. The most severe is class A, which reports the loss of life or a high value item. Class B reports loss of limb or significant damage to high value equipment and Class C reports Soldiers needing more than first aid and not being able to return to duty.
"The reportable actions are collected for the commands to review and are separated by severity," said Cunningham. "Commanders then discuss the events and ways to implement safety measures to mitigate risks to the lowest levels."
In addition to Hubbard and Cunningham, Master Sgt. Fred Davis, 411th Brigade safety officer is on site at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Santa Fe where the majority of Soldiers are working and living. At the FOB, he has several daily safety inspections such as sleep areas, work areas, generators and motor pools. Also, he will go out to visit units on project sites.
"As brigade safety officer for the 411th, I check for safety in everything," said Davis. "When I go out to a project site, I look for the ADSO and I ask him for his risk assessment. I make sure it is filled out properly, and then I start walking around to ensure Soldiers have on proper gear, they are hydrating, eating and getting the proper work and rest cycle."
No life is worth losing in training. Implementing risk management procedures and ensuring safety standards will help mitigate risks, while saving lives and preventing injuries. The life of every Soldier is vital to the overall mission in defeating our enemies.