USAFE summer safety campaign highly praised

by Senior Master Sgt. Stefan Alford
U.S. Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs

 The Air Force marked one of its safest summers during this year’s 101 Critical Days of Summer campaign, and U.S. Air Forces in Europe was among the few to reduce fatalities between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

“While the numbers are improving from a statistical standpoint, unfortunately even one fatality is one too many,” said Col. Bob Wright, USAFE Director of Safety.

Overall, the Air Force lost 19 Airmen this summer. That’s slightly up from the 17 that died during the same period in 2006, but fewer than the 29 fatalities suffered in 2005.

The majority of AF fatalities are traditionally vehicle related and this summer was no exception, with 14 of the 19 attributed to car or motorcycle accidents.  Of the five remaining AF fatalities, four were sports and recreation related, and one was an on-duty fatality.  USAFE suffered two fatalities: one motorcycle and one automobile.

“Planning and preparation go a long way in keeping our Airmen safe,” said Senior Master Sgt. Burrell Hancock, chief of USAFE’s ground safety division.

“Being safe is not an accident and in order to be successful it is imperative for each of us to ask ourselves a few realistic questions,” Sergeant Hancock said, using this weekend’s popular wine festival in nearby Bad Dürkheim as an example. “How am I getting to and from the wine fest? Do I have someone watching my back? Have I had anything to drink? Am I an excellent wingman? Am I too tired?”

Such forethought in USAFE’s efforts at reducing its fatalities this summer were lauded by Maj. Gen. Wendell L. Griffin, Air Force chief of safety and commander of the Air Force Safety Center at Kirtland AFB, N.M.

General Griffin highlighted USAFE’s benchmark safety campaign in which Gen. Tom Hobbins sent out a seven-person team to deliver personal testimonies to more than 11,500 people at five installations within the command.

“A strong focus on safety awareness by senior leadership across all wings in the command certainly played a large role in our efforts to reduce fatalities,” said Colonel Wright. “The coming seasons bring their own share of associated hazards.  We can’t afford to get complacent. It’s up to all of us – commanders, supervisors, and individuals – to build on this success and maintain that safety consciousness through the fall and winter.”