Soldiers of the Army, rejoice! It has officially come down from the Secretary of the Army Mark Esper that weekend safety briefs are freakin' stupid and should be nixed. I'm paraphrasing, obviously — but they have been put on the chopping block.
For everyone not in the know, a safety brief is held after every Friday afternoon formation (or the final formation before an extended weekend), during which the chain of command will lecture the troops on what to do and not to do over the weekend. In short, it's just one of those boxes to check so the commander can get a warm and fuzzy before they go relax.
The problem is that simply standing in front of adults who've dedicated their lives to being warfighters and treating them like kids any time they're left alone for longer than 24 hours isn't going to decrease the frequency of legal incidents. There are countless other, more effective ways relaying lessons like, say, buzzed driving is still drunk driving, to troops without simply, bluntly, and repeatedly telling them not to do something.
If you're the type of person who can't be dissuaded from driving drunk by being told it's against the law and it puts the lives of countless others around you at risk, you have no honor and do not deserve to wear the uniform of America's finest.
(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Lauren M. Sprunk)
The standard safety brief always covers three things that are very serious topics:
- Don't drive and drive.
- Don't assault your spouse.
- Don't assault your children.
These are three objectively terrible things that are unbecoming of a United States soldier. Anyone who commits any of these crimes rightfully deserves to have the hammer dropped on their pathetic ass. The problem is that three issues are addressed weekly to satisfy a requirement and they're rarely given the gravity that they deserve.
To be completely fair to the Army, there are still safety stand-down days that do far more than a PowerPoint slide. There's been no word as to whether those will still stay around, but those days actually give the situations proper attention and troops come away learning why it's a bad idea to be inebriated and operate a 2-ton piece of steel at top speeds through an area with filled with innocent people.
As long as it's not a theater-sized PowerPoint, it's fine.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore)
There is one positive aspect of a safety brief, however, and that's when obscure laws are brought to the forefront of peoples' minds. For example, one of the only individual safety briefs I personally remember (one that stood out from the repeated, standard, "don't do dumb sh*t" message delivered by a disgruntled infantry first sergeant) was when someone made the blotter (a list of all the troops in legal troubles for an installation) for having an expired fishing license. I was going fishing with some of the guys that weekend and I didn't even know fishing licenses were a thing (I'm a city boy. Quit judging me). The odd reminders are good things, and there's a time and place for those even still.
The ultimate irony is when the senior NCO, who literally screamed at everyone to get a freakin' taxi, gets arrested for DUI.
In the face of the Army canning safety briefs, some might expect the barracks to turn into some lawless Hellscape running rampant with drunken bastards committing all sorts of felonies. It won't. Soldiers already know that breaking the law is a bad thing. Any good soldier will continue to stay in line and any sh*tbag soldier would've done it anyways — regardless of whether they've slept through several weeks of being told not to.
In fact, for many, safety briefs are a lower-echelon commander's excuse to a higher-echelon commander should anything go wrong. They can turn to their superior and say, "but I told the troops not to do that! My hands are clean!" In reality, I think we all know it never played a role in keeping troops off the blotter.
A smaller scale safety brief will probably happen, because old habits die hard. Honestly, these might be more effective.
(U.S. Army photo by SFC Lloyd Shellenberger)
The younger troops will be present at each and every safety brief — no exception. Troops of higher ranks will often find some reason to justify an early weekend and skip 'em. Put plainly, not everyone in the unit ever goes to all of them. When was the last time you saw a CW5 endure a safety brief?
And yet, if you take a look at the legal f*ck ups, the ranks of offenders span the gamut. Yes, there are lower enlisted who get locked up by the MPs — Get their asses. They knew it was wrong and did it anyways. Then there's the senior enlisted who've been in for ages and have been present at literally hundreds of safety briefs. I think it's safe to say that there's little to no connection between committing a heinous act and the number of times a troop is told not to do such a thing. Simply being told that an obviously terrible something is against the law is not a way to prevent it.