8th Army stresses safety during stand-down
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — The 8th U.S. Army held a stand-down Monday and Tuesday to educate its soldiers about South Korean relations, mission readiness and safety.
All soldiers stationed on the peninsula attended the New Horizons Day, the second such training evolution since October. Military officials told Stars and Stripes then that the first New Horizons followed a summer wrought with deadly accidents and high-profile incidents. The purpose was to allow soldiers to analyze their mission and how to accomplish it effectively.
This week’s stand-down comes in the wake of a volatile period that saw tens of thousands of anti-American protesters on the capital’s streets calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and a revision of the agreement that governs how U.S. troops are dealt with in the South Korean legal system. One protest group declared war on U.S. Forces Korea and lobbed Molotov cocktails at Camp Gray, meanwhile 8th Army spokesman Lt. Col. Steve Boylan was attacked and stabbed outside Yongsan Garrison by South Korean men telling him to go back to America.
The protesters are outraged that two U.S. soldiers were acquitted for a June 13 accident in which two 13-year-old South Korean girls were crushed to death by an armored vehicle in an off-base convoy. Activists wanted the soldiers tried in South Korean court, but the Status of Forces Agreement gives primary jurisdiction to U.S. officials for crimes committed by on-duty servicemembers.
According to an 8th Army news release, this week’s topics included sustaining the South Korea and U.S. alliance, making South Korea the assignment of choice, individual responsibility for making USFK/ROK relations better and training safety and risk management.
Leaders stressed the importance of safety.
“The thing of today’s New Horizon’s Day is understanding the changing operational environment,” Lt. Gen. Charles C. Campbell, 8th Army commander, said in the release.
“Change is happening all around us, and we must anticipate and adapt to it. The stand-down is also to talk about safety. Safety is everyone’s responsibility.”
Col. William D. Ivey, chief of staff, 8th U.S. Army, also stressed the importance of safety in the release.
“Every soldier and civilian is a safety officer,” Ivey said. “If you see an unsafe act happening or about to happen, then get a hold of someone who has the ability to stop it,” he said.
At Camp Red Cloud, the soldiers of Headquarters and Headquarters Company gathered in small groups to hold classes.
In one dormitory dayroom, Cpl. Jonathan Garcia gave a class on risk management to 20 U.S. and South Korean soldiers.
“Human error is the cause of 87 percent of all Army ground and aviation accidents,” Garcia told the troops.
He stressed that it was every soldier’s responsibility to assess risk management.
At the end of the class, Sgt. Maj. Todd Wentland, HHC operations, said “risk management has come a long way over the years.”
He also had advice for the younger troops in the class.
“Don’t succumb to peer pressure, don’t let others convince you to do something that’s not right,” he said.