By Capt. Tobias Cukale | 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division
FORT CARSON, Colo. — According to the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center’s weekly statistics report, in fiscal 2020, the leading cause of on-duty fatalities in the military was motor vehicle accidents.
In fact, vehicle accidents have accounted for roughly 15% of all non-combat related deaths in the U.S. armed forces since 2006, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service dated May 17, 2021.
One key factor in preventing these deaths is a robust driver’s training program.
“Units must … appoint trained, responsible and passionate personnel as their battalion master drivers, license examiners, and instructors and make sure it is their only duty to ensure training is conducted to standard and often, not just when it is required or due to an accident,” said Sgt. 1st Class Donald Jones, brigade master driver, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
Jones and his battalion master drivers have worked tirelessly to ensure the “Iron” Brigade’s driver’s training program meets or exceeds the postwide 4th Inf. Div. standards in ensuring Soldiers’ safety and proficiency on their vehicles, and it was that passion and commitment to the standard that drove the 3rd ABCT master drivers to assist the 7450th U.S. Army Reserve Medical Operations Readiness Unit (MED ORU) in their annual driver’s training.
“A Soldier is a Soldier no matter which (component) they come from,” Jones said. “They came to learn and were both professional and diligent in their effort to become safe and responsible military vehicle operators.”
The training occurred June 26-27, and was instructed by Jones, Staff Sgt. Gerald Brown, the 4th Infantry Division master driver; Staff Sgt. Nicholas Severson and Staff Sgt. Chris Hismodes, the master drivers of 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 3rd ABCT, 4th Inf. Div.; and Staff Sgt. Darren Brumley, the master driver of the 588th Brigade Engineer Battalion. Pfc. William Johnston, of 588th Brigade Engineer Battalion volunteered to assist with the weekend training, having just gone through it himself.
“I had just done the driver’s training for the installation a month before, so it was all still fresh in my mind,” Johnston said.
In addition to assisting 7450th USAR MED ORU, Jones and his team used the opportunity to permanently lay out a standardized driver’s training course within the 3rd ABCT footprint, for use in future training.
“Staff Sgt. Jones and I … measured (between) every cone to find out how far they needed to be apart and once we did that, we put waterproof paint down, and now that makes it easier for him and the other master drivers. All they have to do now is take cones out there and set them on the dots,” Johnston said. “I haven’t seen anybody doing their driver’s training there yet, but it’s in the brigade footprint; in theory anybody that wanted to use it could run over and throw the cones up.”
With one weekend, a little waterproof paint and a passion for keeping Soldiers safe, the Iron Brigade master drivers ensured that not only were the Soldiers of the 7450th trained, but future generations of 3rd ABCT, 4th Inf. Div., Soldiers would also be trained to standard.