My first responsibility as the director of the Army National Guard is to protect our most treasured resource — our personnel. This responsibility, and my commitment to it, transcends these few words.
Four principles guide my safety philosophy: all accidents can be prevented, safety is everyone’s responsibility, safety cannot take a back seat to readiness, and leaders influence safety practices.
Safety is more than the sum of its parts. Whether we’re talking about aviation or ground safety, industrial hygiene, occupational health (or the volumes of subsets of each), these programs are doomed to failure if our leaders do not commit to them and our Soldiers do not believe in them.
A mutual and ethical commitment to safety must pervade all of our activities. That means doing the right thing — incorporating safety — even when no one is looking. Mutual commitment and accountability are fundamental to such pacesetting actions as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Voluntary Protection Programs, and the Guard must continue to set an example for our Soldiers by implementing such proven initiatives. We must prevent unsafe acts and conditions, breaking the chain of events that result in the loss of even a single Guard member. And when we lose a Soldier to an accident — on or off duty — we must investigate and learn from our mistakes, continuing the larger effort of preserving the force.
Safety must be at the forefront of each operation and activity. Whether tending a shop bench, operating a road vehicle or aircraft, or walking a combat patrol, we must employ each of the steps of risk management — don’t simply “check the block” for safety. All evaluation reports and technician appraisals must reflect how the individual supports his or her commander’s safety program.
What does effective safety training look like? When our Soldiers, service civilians and contractors get safely home so they can return to their Guard tasks the next day.
I invite you to join me in committing to remain vigilant for safety, not just for our own sakes but for everyone. Together, let’s continue to celebrate more than three centuries of being Guard safe!
What can you do to make a safety difference in your unit or organization?