By Sgt. Jason Thompson
4th Infantry Division public affairs
“You survived the war, now survive the highways,” is the quote commuters view each day as they exit the main gates around Fort Hood. It is a message that post leaders hope resonate loud and clear for their community members.
Perhaps even more startling to commuters is a digital ticker that declares the number of days since the last traffic-related fatality involving soldiers on Fort Hood. As of Monday, it has been only 17 days since a soldier has lost his or her life in an accident.
Since the 4th Infantry Division returned from its deployment in Iraq, Ivy Division soldiers have been involved in 110 traffic accidents, which resulted in 11 soldiers dying and 99 suffering serious injuries.
About 450 soldiers who have received traffic violations within the past 180 days, along with their first-line supervisors, attended the division’s Motor Vehicle Safety Retraining at Howze Theater on Saturday.
“The goal here is to change unsafe behavior and to hopefully prevent future accidental losses,” said division Command Sgt. Maj. John Gioia. “The most difficult thing is to stand in front of the family of a soldier who lost his life and tell that family the reason he or she is dead is because they made a bad decision and died as a result of high speed or while driving under the influence of alcohol.”
Gioia said the retraining program was initially briefed to the leadership of each of the divisions within Forces Command during a safety video-teleconference. The 10th Mountain Division, which is based at Fort Drum, N.Y., was the first to use the program. Preliminary results have proven successful so far and indicate in a reduction in traffic violations.
“We decided to adapt their program and conduct it here with the 4th Infantry Division,” Gioia said. “Our goal is to reduce our number of violations and prevent the loss of life.”
The retraining should prove beneficial for both the Fort Hood and Central Texas communities, said Paul Burns, the division’s safety officer.
“Our soldiers are both living among, and protecting, the civilian community,” Burns said. “Every time one of our soldiers is involved in an accident, we cause harm to the very community we are here to serve and protect. We want our soldiers to be part of the driving community – not the problem.”