By Patricia Deal
Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center public affairs
As Sgt. 1st Class Johnny Cheatham pulled on belts and kicked the tires on his soldier's vehicle, he told him, "A vehicle can easily be replaced, but a soldier can't."
Cheatham, a noncommissioned officer in charge of the medical surgery ward at Carl R. Darnall Medical Center, has done many vehicle inspections and safety briefings.
The Army's Safety Program regulations make it mandatory for units to conduct vehicle safety inspections for their soldiers a minimum of every six months. Cheatham said the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center policy is very detailed, requiring inspections, plus safety briefings anytime a soldier will be off for three days or longer and traveling more than 250 miles.
"The regulation may state a minimum of one every six months, but we follow the best practice and choose to do them more frequently," said Steven Smith, a medical center safety engineer.
"This is just leaders showing genuine interest in their soldiers' safety. They are protecting their soldiers by making sure they have planned accordingly, are aware of all the risks involved, documented their travel plans by using the Travel Risk Planning System and have a vehicle in good working order."
Engaged leadership does make a difference, Smith said. He added that, through the diligent efforts of leaders like Cheatham, the Army has seen a reduction in the number of off-duty soldiers killed in vehicle accidents over the last five years.
The vehicle inspection is just one means to help keep soldiers safe when traveling, Smith said. In addition to the vehicle inspection, Soldiers traveling more than the 250-mile radius must document their travel plans by using TRiPS forms.
"TRiPS is an excellent risk management tool. It requires users to provide important information about their trip such as the specific location point their traveling to on what days, listing all drivers' names, enter how many of hours of sleep they plan on getting prior to the trip and more," Smith said. "
In addition to the vehicle inspections and TRiPS documentation, Cheatham said he also gives soldiers a detailed safety memo and counseling form that soldiers must sign to validate the package.