INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --
When it comes to the workplace, safety guidelines are essential for Airmen. However, many do not consider that every aspect of safety – both on and off-duty – keeps the mission going.
At Incirlik Air Base, the 39th Air Base Wing Safety Office has the important job of making sure everyone on base stays safe in order to do their part in Operation Inherent Resolve.
“When most people think of safety, they think ‘don’t drink and drive, don’t plug in your heater,’ or ‘don’t run daisy chains,’” said Seth Hansen, 39th ABW NCOIC of safety inspections. “That’s the stuff you hear day-to-day, but there’s a lot more to it. We manage the Wing Safety program and advise the commander every step of the way, every project going on, and mitigate hazards.”
The safety office here is comprised of three different sections: occupational, weapons, and flight. The sections work together to assess risk, monitor trends, and prevent accidents.
“Tracking mishap trends and assessing risk for the various projects going on around the base allows us to produce actionable information,” said Lt. Col. Sarah Lynch, 39th ABW Chief of Wing Safety. “We can take that information and help the commander to make informed, safe decisions.”
In addition, safety is also responsible for keeping Occupational Safety and Health Administration compliance base-wide. They ensure industrial, conventional weapons, and even flight level safety standards meet mission requirements with efficiency and effectiveness.
Lynch added that each member of the safety team sets the bar when it comes to these standards. Over the past two years, they have won both the 2016 Air Force Chief of Safety Special Achievement award and the 2017 United States Air Forces in Europe Occupational, Risk Management and Industrial Safety award.
“We directly impact the mission by interacting with both our permanent party and deployed [military] members here,” Hansen said. “We’re in contact with those either in support of, or flying, the OIR missions on a daily basis.”
Lynch, who has been a flight safety officer for over 10 years, said that the safety office’s responsibilities are dynamic and range in complexity. In addition to being an important staging platform for OIR, Incirlik AB also works with host nation and NATO partners, and this creates a unique set of safety challenges.
“Being locked down on base, but still being a big enough base that people still need a way around, has created a situation where people are very creative,” Lynch said. “The scooters on base are the single greatest safety threat that we have to our Airmen here.”
In order to mitigate this threat, the Occupational Safety section, and several volunteers, worked together to create the sole scooter safety course in USAFE. This has helped to reduce the reported number of scooter mishaps at Incirlik by 28%.
Another way the safety office prevents mishaps is by promoting the Air Force “Check Three GPS” concept. A quick and easy way to perform risk management for activities, Check Three GPS encourages Airmen to assess if they have the right Gear, Plan, and Skills before performing their activities.
“Safety is always important, and should be interwoven in everything we do,” Lynch said. “That means on base, off base, on duty and off. Our purpose in safety is to prevent mishaps, because we need both the people and the equipment to be operable to execute the mission.”