FORWARD OPERATING BASE SMART - Members of the Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team took time from missions throughout the Zabul Province to focus on safety at Forward Operating Base Smart, Afghanistan, Jan. 3.
As part of an International Security Assistance Force, Regional Command South Combined Team directive, the intent of the safety stand down was to ensure units take the time to slow down the operational pace and reflect on proper procedures for critical tasks.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Justin Kraft, Z PRT commander, stressed the importance of taking time to focus on safety.
“As a commander, safety is the number one thing I think about,” said Kraft. “When I took command of the PRT, one of my main missions was to ensure every one of the soldiers and airmen here return home to their family. For that to happen, safety has to be at the forefront of every persons mind, no matter their rank or duty position. These types of events ensure that happens."
Briefings and hands-on exercises were used to drive home the importance of safety. Topics discussed ranged from medical issues like frostbite and hypothermia to weapons and vehicle safety.
“We’ve been here a couple of months,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Gregory Rowland, Z PRT sergeant major. “Once you’re here for any amount of time complacency starts to set in, no matter how hard you try for it not to. Today’s event was meant to reenergize the team.”
U.S. Army Sgt. Eric Huerta, a gunner with Z PRT, helped teach the weapons safety portion of the days training. He explained that for some, who go out on missions daily or are constantly handling their weapon, weapons safety is practiced daily.
“You can be here and rarely go out on missions,” said Heurta. “That person should still know how to clear their weapon system or know what to do in the event of a vehicle rollover. Refresher or first time, this information is a necessity.”
The most important topic discussed, according to the PRT sergeant major was suicide prevention.
“Suicide is prevalent in the military,” said Rowland. “During today’s training we really tried to stress the battle buddy /wingman concept. No one knows you better than the person who is around you the most. Out here, that’s your battle buddy/wingman. They can see any changes that might occur, they can see the signs and indicators [of suicide].”
Rowland continued that noticing those signs and indicators then reporting them was the responsibility of every member of Z PRT.
Though safety was discussed in length during the stand down, members of Z PRT were urged to continue to keep safety in mind throughout the duration of the deployment.
“We want to ensure everyone makes it home to their families,” said Rowland.