Fort Bliss, TX — The 402nd Field Artillery Brigade Soldiers and civilians soaked up some fun in the sun while absorbing important knowledge and tips at their Safety Stand-down Day at Biggs Park here, March 28.
Community businesses joined Fort Bliss agencies to set up displays and present a variety of safety information to brigade members. Ten stations were set up throughout the park and presenters covered major safety topics such as car and truck maintenance; water activities; motorcycling and off-roading; personal self-defense; heat injuries; fire prevention; weapons handling; and drunk driving.
“Spring and summer seasons are perhaps the busiest time for most people as there’s such a variety of activities. We want everyone to enjoy themselves, but to stay safe at the same time,” said Donald Dryer, safety officer for the brigade. “This type of hands-on, interactive learning is the best way to drive our main safety messages home. Participants could watch the demonstrations, try out some things for themselves and talk directly with the experts. It’s an ideal way to get everyone thinking more about safety.”
Col. Carolyn Birchfield, brigade commander, agreed. “Everyone is already thinking about and planning all the things they’ll be doing this summer. We just want to make sure that they are also thinking about and planning all the safety measures they need to take so they can enjoy their activities without incident,” she said.
“I’m especially grateful for the community folks who came out here and presented their safety messages,” continued Birchfield. “I think learning about different trends and statistics in the community helps put the importance of safety into perspective.”
To help make their point about not driving drunk, officers from the El Paso Police department brought poster-sized photos of actual car accidents that graphically depicted the devastation and death caused by drunk drivers. Participants viewed the photos before trying out the “drunk goggles,” which simulate the impairment caused by alcohol and how the body reacts.
“It was really hard to do anything with those goggles on. My coordination was totally wiped out and I couldn’t get my body to function how I wanted to,” said Staff Sgt. Jess Gonzales from the brigade’s 2nd Battalion, 356th Regiment.
He tried performing the basic sobriety test with the goggles and also drove a utility vehicle through a short, cone-lined course.
“After trying that, and having seen those horrible pictures, it really scares me to think that there are people out there on the roads driving drunk,” said Gonzales.
In their presentation about all-terrain vehicles, the representatives from Red Sands Rent-A-ATV Off-Road Adventures, El Paso, stressed the importance of taking safety precautions before riding. According to their findings, some 3,500 deaths and thousands more injuries have occurred from ATV accidents since 2004—all of which were preventable.
“I thought all the information presented was beneficial. The drunk driving display and goggles were a real eye-opener for me,” said Sgt. 1st Class Evelyn Veal, from the 402nd’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battery. “This was the perfect way to learn about safety. The weather was perfect, I had fun, and the information will stay with me.”
That’s the main thing the commander wanted her brigade members to take away from the day. She told the group that safety is really a personal responsibility.
“I just want to let you all know that the command sergeant major and I are not underwriting your summer,” said Birchfield. “Go out and have fun, but just be aware of the risks involved and make sure you do what’s necessary to stay safe.”