USAFE leaders urge ‘teaming to focus on safety’

Gen. Tom Hobbins,
USAFE commander
and Chief Master Sgt. Gary Coleman,
USAFE command chief

This summer, our travels have taken us across the command, and from Lajes to Al Udeid, the outstanding Airmen of USAFE remain on the leading edge of our most critical global challenge, the War on Terrorism. As we visited the bases and watched you in action, we were continually reminded that every single Airman is essential to mission success. Safety mishaps that occur downrange or at home impede the accomplishment of our objectives and cause heartache and pain for our families, friends, co-workers, our command.

From the most senior commander to the newest Airman, safety is everyone’s responsibility. It doesn’t matter if we are performing base operating support or engaging in activities outside the wire, we must continue our full-court press on and off duty to prevent accidents caused by unnecessary risks, alcohol, or poor training. We have the tools to prevent mishaps and need to apply them in everything we do. Operational Risk Management provides the guidance to assess each situation we encounter and make sound decisions based on associated levels of risk.

Nothing, however, replaces good common sense and judgment. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t and you should correct it.

To date, the Air Force has had 44 fatal accidents in 2006. While that has decreased from 54 during the same period in 2005, it still means that 44 Airmen lost their lives – six of these Airmen were from USAFE. Some of the contributing factors that led to these tragic accidents:
• Driver distractions (cell phone, radio, GPS)
• Not using the proper emergency equipment (reflective vest/belt, signs, flashers)
• Excessive speeds
• Engaging in activities without properly assessing the risk
Supervisors must be engaged at all levels. Know your Airmen’s off-duty plans. Help them understand the associated risks, consequences, and impact that every safety mishap has on both the mission and their families.
The 101 Critical Days of Summer may be over, but our focus on safety must not fade with the warm weather. As a nation at war, we can’t afford to cut corners – the stakes are just too high.

Together, we must protect our most vital resource, our Airmen, and continue our commitment to “Ensuring Freedom’s Future.”