Safety, smafety

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- As we walk into this four-day weekend we kick-off the 101 Critical Days of Summer Safety Campaign. The campaign begins at 4 p.m. today and ends at 7 a.m. Sept. 5.

During last year's campaign the Air Force experienced 29 fatalities compared to 32 the previous year.

Now before I write another word, let me begin by acknowledging what many of you are already thinking ... "another safety, smafety article ... it doesn't apply to me and it won't happen to me ... safety is for everyone else and especially all those people who do stupid things."

OK, now let me tell you that there were 29 people in the Air Force last year that are not with us this year that probably wish they had paid attention. So ... pay attention ... we are trying to save your life!

I can literally come up with a dozen different ways to tell you that you need to be smart; you need to evaluate risks and minimize them, don't drink and drive, don't drink and swim, don't drink and drive a boat, don't light your eye-brows on fire while cooking out, and list goes on and on.

Better yet, let me tell you a quick personal story that touches on how in the blink of an eye your life can change. In June of 2003 I was bringing back a wing's worth of C-130s from the desert. We had been deployed since January and had flown countless hours and missions ranging from the first into Baghdad to flying into Iraq the first night of major combat operations.

I was so pleased to be bringing back every jet and person that deployed. We elected to stop over on the way back to the States at Sigonella. During the stop over, a bunch of our loadmasters, crew chiefs and maintainers got together in a second floor room to have a few beers before going out for dinner. Of course the room had a balcony and the party came up with the idea to see who could spit the furthest off the balcony.

As the contest progressed the techniques changed. The last technique to be employed involved taking a running start across the room, on to the balcony, and lofting a spit while in full stride. The guy that came up with the technique ended up following his spit over the balcony and into the driveway below.

He broke his cranium and was in critical condition when we had to leave him behind the next day. In the blink of an eye his life changed, his family's lives changed, his friends' lives changed, and his unit's lives changed.

He was a smart guy that went stupid. He was an aircrew guy that was well trained in risk management and flight safety. He was one of those guys that would say "safety, smafety."

It's the hard stuff that is easy to do and the easy stuff that's hard to do. The very first step is exercising good judgment or put another way, thinking before acting. So before you take your first swig of beer, or hit the road this weekend, or step out to do whatever it is that you do over a four-day weekend, think before acting.

Find a friend and tell them to do the same. Pledge to yourself to think before acting over the next 101 days and then make it a life-long campaign that goes beyond the 101 Critical Days of Summer Safety Campaign.

Safety, smafety ... hmmm ... pay attention and save your life! I look forward to seeing every one of you on the flip side of this weekend.