The Misadventures of Airman Snuffy McDufflebay and Master Sgt. Johnny Mentor

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- After returning from my TDY, I was anxious to do my part in helping the displaced Americans from Lebanon. The base was all a buzz, building the Patriot Village, while providing housing, telephone access, a 24-hour BX/Shoppette, a children's play area, chaplain's assistance and medical services for more than 1,700 people transitioning back to the U.S. 

With the last of the American citizen's departing July 31, I was on my way to the Airmen and Family Readiness Center to do a story on Janet Morrison, AFRC flight chief and coordinator for volunteers at the Patriot Village, when I ran into Master Sgt. Johnny Mentor. 

He had bags under his eyes and looked like he hadn't slept in days. I asked him how things had been going. He didn't even look at me he just stared into the distance and said, 

"All my life I had to fight! My father always told me, 'The world is a safer place to live in when you understand how things work.' He was the kind of guy, who had gloves, goggles and other safety items in his garage when we would work on various projects at our family farm. I never thought that one day I would meet someone who would ignore the respect for occupational safety that my father had emphasized so much -- but then I met him." 

I got the feeling now wasn't a good time to ask him what happened, but I knew he was talking about Airman Snuffy McDufflebag. I tried to walk away but Sergeant Mentor told me to "take out some paper and a pen." He said I had to warn the people, my "habitual line stepper" was at it again. I couldn't believe what he had to tell me. Snuffy was unbelievably unsafe or just stupid! You decide. 

With one of his troops already downrange, Sergeant Mentor's Airmen were tasked to assist with building the Patriot Village. Upon receiving the tasking Sergeant Mentor gave his Airmen a safety briefing, ensured they had gloves and goggles and told them to take water so they could stay hydrated. Airman McDufflebag and the rest of the Airmen then headed to the site where the tents were being built. Groups of Airmen and volunteers were already at work setting up tents, so Sergeant Mentor's Airmen jumped in wherever they could. 

As the work day continued Snuffy over heard two young ladies talking about how good Airman Flex Buffington looked driving down spikes with a sledgehammer. "He made it look so easy," they said. Snuffy thought this would be a good way to shine, especially for the ladies. Snuffy told Flex that since he had been working so hard he would take over for a bit so he could rest. One of Snuffy's coworkers, Airman Plucky Gossip from his shop, asked Snuffy if he knew what he was doing and Snuffy told her to "shut up, even an idiot can drive a spike into the ground." 

Snuffy asked Flex to put his foot on the tent beam so he could put a spike through it, then he blurted out "Hey, ladies look at how a real man does it." Snuffy lifted the sledge hammer up as high as he could and brought it down as hard as he could. Two seconds later Flex was screaming like Jennifer Love Hewitt in "I Know What You Did Last Summer." Airman Buffington's foot was broken and Snuffy was asked to return to his work center immediately. But Snuffy had to stop and asked the ladies what they thought of his sledge hammering skills. They both said that was the worst act of occupational safety negligence that they had ever seen and he was an idiot. 

After putting foot to ..., well we do have children who read this, Sergeant Mentor replaced Snuffy at the tent site and tasked him to answer phones in the office the next day. Feeling bad for breaking his foot, Snuffy decided to throw a Banana Cognac Pajama Jammy Jam in honor of Airman Buffington. Since he could not drink he played the role of host until 4:30 a.m. He figured he was just answering phones the next day and would not need much sleep. Snuffy decided he wouldn't sleep at all and just drink coffee all day to stay awake. 

After working a 12-hour shift Snuffy could not wait to break out of the office and hit the sack. He cut off the lights, locked the door and headed back to the dorms. Unfortunately Snuffy forgot to turn off the coffee pot and poof a fire broke out in the office. Gone were Airman Al DoRight's, who is currently deployed downrange, quarterly and yearly awards. 

Gone was Airman Eli Snitch's notes on what everybody else was doing wrong. Gone was Airman Plucky Gossip's e-mail's from her sources around base. Gone was Airman Extrina Curricula's letter's of appreciation, gone was Sergeant Mentor's pictures of his dad's farm house and gone was rest of Snuffy's ....(you know) after Sergeant Mentor was finished asking Snuffy what the five finger said to the face and asking him what he was thinking leaving the coffee pot on. 

Sergeant Mentor explained that if you haven't applied the ORM formula to occupational safety, then that process is long overdue. Sergeant Mentor said supervisors should take the time to talk Airmen about scenarios that might lead to an unnecessary, hazardous risk. Formulate a plan that helps reduce these risks and, ultimately, may help prevent another mishap. 

The bottom line is awareness and following the established safety guidelines. The next time you see people doing something stupid; tell them for their own safety to follow the rules. If you are a supervisor, keep alert to the actions of your people. It's the little, seemingly unimportant things that can cause a lot of heartache and end with having to explain to families why they are now widows and orphans. 

Don't let complacency be in your epitaph and don't look like an idiot, but then again I'm sure Snuffy will be crossing the line again!