CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — Ground-vehicle accidents are down 48 percent within the 2nd Infantry Division, something the unit’s commander attributes to safety improvements made after a June 2002 incident in which a U.S. military vehicle ran over and killed two South Korean girls.

“In order to get to our training areas we have to move our equipment. We have to traverse roads up here in North Gyeonggi Province and there is always risk associated with that,” 2nd ID commander Maj. Gen. George A. Higgins said Thursday.

Second ID public affairs chief Maj. Mike Lawhorn released data Friday showing the number of ground-vehicle accidents within the division fell from 292 in fiscal year 2002 to 162 last fiscal year, a drop of 45 percent. And for the first five months of fiscal year 2005, there have been just 59 ground-vehicle accidents, compared with 112 for the same period in fiscal year 2002, a 48 percent drop.

The latest move aimed at improved safety involves extending a newcomers program for leaders arriving at Camp Mobile’s Warrior Readiness Center (formerly the Warrior Replacement Center), Higgins said.

“Traditionally, soldiers assigned to the division come in [to the center] for three days. I have added two more days with a safety component for every soldier,” he said.

Leaders — including corporals, sergeants, lieutenants and warrant officers — also will get an additional week of orientation, with five days of safety training including classroom and online study as well as field trips, he said.

Part of the training will involve tactical vehicle command, he said.

“Since the accident [in 2002] we have ensured that in our vehicles the person who is the tactical commander is a noncommissioned officer or an officer,” he said. “You might have a private driving, but you will have an NCO or an officer commanding.”

Higgins said newly arrived leaders will learn to balance safety and the threat posed by enemy forces.

“We are paying attention to some of the tragic accidents in Iraq, like a Humvee rolling into a canal. A factor in that might have been how they [the soldiers in the Humvee] were trying to mitigate tactical risk,” Higgins said.

Second ID commanders will do after-action reviews after every ground vehicle accident, no matter how small, Higgins said.

“If we pay attention to the very small fender benders, we may discover how we can help ourselves prevent the major ground accidents,” he said.

One change introduced since the June 2002 incident involves mandatory rehearsals before convoy movements. Generals oversee battalion-level convoy rehearsals, colonels oversee company-level convoy rehearsals and lieutenant colonels oversee platoon-sized convoy rehearsals, he said.

Each time a convoy moves, a safety risk assessment is made and presented to the officer overseeing it. The assessment looks at the risks and mitigation measures that can be taken to protect soldiers and South Korean citizens, Higgins said.

Convoys have been restricted to moving between certain hours, he said.

“We deliberately schedule our convoys at times when the traffic density is less and we are less likely to place at risk any South Korean citizens who might be out,” he said.

Another safety improvement is making sure convoys do not pass each other, Higgins said.

Second ID leaders address safety concerns with local civic leaders and Gyeonggi Province officials through the Korean-American Partnership Council, Higgins said.

“Before every major exercise … the brigade commander will hold a meeting involving local mayors and police and say, ‘Here is the window of time where we are training,’ so that through civil channels the word can get out,” he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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