Staff Sgt. Tina Villalobos
35th Infantry Division
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait—The 35th Infantry Division, Task Force Spartan, safety team attends to the safety of 10,000 Soldiers across 10 countries spanning the Gulf Region and the greater Levant. The team established their safety program through meticulous efforts in setting, teaching, and enforcing safety standards and developing a strong safety culture.
“Our safety team developed and implemented the brigade and battalion safety continuity program to address theater-specific safety training,” said Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Bradshaw, 35th Inf. Div. safety non-commissioned officer. “The training starts at their first pre-deployment meetings, and follows them through their deployment and into redeployment and reintegration at home station. This program allows us to provide the right focus at the right time in a unit’s deployment to ensure they are focused on known safety trends.”
Although the team uses the guidance of the U.S. Army’s safety program, and multiple Army regulations that define safe practices and procedures, Col. Thomas Barnett, Jr., 35th Inf. Div. safety program director, credits the command team’s guidance as the leading factor in the success of the safety program. According to Barnett, the division command sergeant major’s “5 S program” keeps Soldiers engaged and alert to safety concerns because it is integrated into every element of safety throughout the division, to include planning, operations, and after-action reviews. (The 5 S program includes safety fitness, soldier fitness, SHARP fitness, stability fitness, and sustainment fitness.) Leaders across the division are tasked with ensuring safety standards are ingrained in every phase of an operation, and that safety expectations are learned and enforced by the Soldiers themselves.
“Safety is all about mission readiness,” said Bradshaw. “The safety team is focused on protecting service members and equipment, so they can maintain readiness and complete their assigned missions. Everything we do is focused on ensuring the safety of Task Force Soldiers in their mission. Making sure a Soldier returns home safe and healthy is what the safety team is all about.”
“We have lots of reports, evaluations and inspections that we use as tools to quantify measurements of effectiveness and performance for our safety program,” Bradshaw explained. “But the best gauge that our safety program is working is the proof we have through reports that accidents are far and few between across the task force.”
According to Bradshaw, the team analyzes their reports to determine if Soldiers are really making safety part of their missions, and if the controls implemented are having a positive effect on Soldiers’ lives and mission readiness.
“All the reports in the world don’t matter, however, if we are not stopping preventable accidents and mishaps,” said Bradshaw.
The accident prevention program within the 35th Inf. Div. starts with safety fitness, according to Bradshaw, which focuses on training, leader development, and maintaining safety standards.
Safety reports tend to focus on the worst accidents as a measure of safety program effectiveness. But the team says this focus can be misleading.
The team takes a proactive approach, according to Barnett, with regular contact to its units to reinforce safety messages, eliminate noncompliance, and ensure drills and operational standards follow prescribed safety practices.
“We have a saying within our safety team, there are no new accidents,” said Barnett. “Almost every accident we see has happened before. We have hundreds of controls in place to stop accidents—but when we repeat the same accidents, it’s usually because someone failed to maintain a standard. Human error and errors in leadership cause the vast majority of accidents. We look to our Soldiers and their leadership to continue to stay vigilant and ensure safety in the Task Force. In the 35th Inf. Div. we don’t wait for an accident to happen to take action.”