by Capt. Richard Packer
2d Engineer Brigade PAO
4/23/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Sgt. 1st Class Ron Albert is the 2014 winner of the Director of Army Safety Risk Management Award.
A member of U.S. Army Alaska's 2d Engineer Brigade, Albert recently
returned from deployment to Afghanistan with his brigade headquarters.
That is where he showed his safety mettle as a construction manager on Bagram Airfield.
With the assembly of more than 3,000 wooden buildings and other
temporary structures over 13 years of continuous conflict, Bagram
Airfield was likened to a "Frankenstein" by top commanders due to the
way it had been pieced together over the course of the war.
In preparation for the Resolute Support mission and the right-sizing of
International Security Assistance Forces - Afghanistan's largest base,
the engineers on Bagram were under tremendous pressure to tear down
wooden barracks, offices, gazebos, patios and most other wooden
Everything demolished by military engineers saved America the cost of paying contractors to do the work later.
With this pressure to work swiftly came the added risk of accidents and injury.
"Engaged leaders are the key to reducing our most prevalent cause of
Army mishaps - human error," said Ron Andree, the U.S. Army Alaska
safety manager who deployed with the brigade and submitted Albert for
This is where Albert proved his safety value and expertise.
He was responsible for overseeing site safety and adherence to standards for thousands of deconstruction projects.
He supervised the safety of vertical and horizontal deconstruction
projects for five modular Army Reserve and National Guard engineer
The main effort was deconstruction using heavy machinery and hand tools -
work which is commonly associated with higher risk for personal
"On the average day we'd have approximately 22 deconstruction sites
being worked by about 180 Soldiers. They were operating cranes,
excavators, loaders, tractor-trailers, dump trucks; all kinds of heavy
machinery," Andree said.
"They were tearing down buildings, massive tension fabric structure
tents, earth-filled barriers and moving concrete T-walls and bunkers to
better protect coalition forces from enemy attacks," he said.
Every project was different. Each one had to be individually evaluated
for whether heavy equipment could be maneuvered through areas congested
by buildings to expedite the deconstruction or whether the project would
be done by hand.
"I've been in the Army for 23 years and deployed five times. I've always
been around construction equipment. With these heavy machines, if
Soldiers aren't careful then it's only a matter of time before someone
gets hurt," Albert said. "I believe every accident is preventable. If
safety is a priority, if leaders are engaged in having proper techniques
and procedures in place, then any accident can be prevented."
For Albert, taking care of Soldiers is the best job in the Army.
According to his philosophy, leadership doesn't happen from behind a desk.
He said he believes if Soldiers are out working in the heat, dust and
grime, then those directly responsible for their safety should be out
there with them.
"Teaching and training younger NCOs is the most important part of a good
safety program," Albert said. "The first-line supervisors, the leaders
on the ground working beside Soldiers, they are the ones who are going
to enforce standards, make sure Soldiers are wearing their protective
equipment and are following the safety procedures set by commanders."
Albert has seen many Soldiers hurt throughout his career because someone cut corners by neglecting safety standards.
He said he believes in the Army's risk management program and knows it can save lives when properly applied to operations.
"Risk assessments are just a piece of paper if they aren't followed and
enforced. That's how people get injured," Albert said. "I wasn't going
to let that happen on my worksites. Our unit made safety a priority at
every level and went the whole deployment without having any serious
injuries. That's all the proof I need that risk management works."
Albert has not yet been officially presented the award. Director of Army
Safety, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Farnsworth, expressed his interest in flying
to Alaska to give the plaque to Albert personally.