News: Family integrated with 17th CSSB’s 'Safety Day'
Story by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - When soldier’s think of "Safety Day," most soldiers think of a day full of briefings and the "round robin" of dreaded PowerPoint slides.
The 17th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion found a way to make required training more enjoyable with a twist. They provided outdoor hands-on-training and invited soldier’s family members at the Skeet/Trap and Archery Range, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Oct. 14.
Trap and skeet shooting, archery, hunting safety, all terrain vehicle safety, cold weather training and a simulated drunk driving obstacle course were some of the classes offered to soldiers and family members to participate.
Some of the soldiers experienced the simulated drunk driving obstacle course first hand. Pfc. Alva L. Lee, a chemical operations specialist with the 95th Chemical Company, took advantage of the readily available training.
“Today we’re out here for winter safety,” Lee, a native of Biloxi, Miss., said. “We have Morale, Welfare and Recreation out here showing us how to ride snowmobiles and what to wear. We’re doing ATV and weapons safety and have Army Substance Abuse Program out here showing us how it feels to drive while you’re intoxicated. They have the bicycles and they have goggles that make you feel like you feel like you’re intoxicated. You go through the cones and if you hit the cone, it just shows you what can happen when you’re intoxicated and driving a vehicle.”
Spc. Thomas Stanley, a Chemical Equipment Repairer with 95th Chemical Company, experienced the obstacle course first hand as he hit a few cones himself.
“The goggles are supposed to impair your vision, and they did that,” Stanley laughed. “I really couldn’t see what I was doing on the cycle or anything. I just kind of went for it.”
Stanley said the training reinforced what he knew all along.
“Have a plan if you go out. Don’t be that person,” Stanley, a native from Sierra Vista, Ariz., said.
Capt. Anthony E. Stong, the battalion S-2 and safety officer, explains the importance of getting out of the classroom and into a hands-on environment.
“What we’re doing is bring out the entire battalion out to get everybody educated on different things for winter safety in Alaska in general without doing it ‘Death by Power-Point’,” said Stong.
The battalion chaplain is set up to give hunting and firearm safety classes, my non-commissioned officer-in-charge, Staff Sgt. Sweeny is giving instructional classes on winter safety, Stong, a Reno, Nev., native, said.
“We’re making sure we get that information out to the families and not just the soldiers.” Stong said. “We have the ASAP teams that came out and brought their pedal carts, so they could put on their drunk goggles so that they can see what it’s like to drive impaired so people are better aware of how much that actually affects you so it prevents drinking and driving. We have the family resiliency teams out here; they are out here talking to the soldiers on a one to one basis, to make sure that they know what that program is. The military and family life consultant is also out here, just to sell his services and make sure they understand what that is and that is a free service to the soldiers. We have our skeet range which has given us a pretty good deal, so the soldiers can get out there. Once they learned how to safely use a shotgun, they can actually participate and shoot trap and skeet at a fairly low cost. We also have the archery range where folks can come out and practice their archery skills.”
“The benefits are that the soldiers are going to be out here and having fun,” Stong said. “While you’re having fun and doing something different it retains better. You sit there and give a safety briefing every week. ‘This is why you don’t drink and drive’, but you get somebody out here and put them on a little cart they have to peddle around on a little obstacle course, that sticks in their head how hard that was so when they actually do drink they think ‘maybe that’s not what I want to do, I couldn’t peddle a cart around the parking lot.'”
“They get to come out here and actually pick up hunting tools and see the safety aspects of it. It’s not just an orange vest and earplugs. Most importantly, just having family out here with soldiers the families retain this as well.”
“I don’t know if this training is just Alaskan unique, although Alaska does have a lot of unique missions that we need to train for that you wouldn’t have to do in say, Fort Bragg or Hawaii. It’s about training soldiers the right way and we train as we fight and this has given us that opportunity.”
Lt. Col. Andrew Mergens, the 17th CSSB commander, wanted the family to be part of the training as well.
“We also did some safety training on cold weather,” Mergens said. “We wanted to focus it towards off duty time in particularly with families which are one of the big reasons. Schools out today, so the kids could come and we encourage the families to come down and give them a chance to come down and get exposed to the cold weather and how to prepare for an Alaskan winter.”
“I think everyone’s having a good time,” Mergens said. “I think it’s out of the norm of what we’re usually used to on the safety day focus and again it get’s everyone outside and I think they had a good time.”
The Family Readiness Group provided snacks and drinks inside a warm-up tent and there was hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch.