Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Air Guard strives to protect people on, off duty

by Army Sgt. Darron Salzer
National Guard Bureau

6/24/2010 - FORT WORTH, Texas (AFNS) -- Air National Guard officials have established the safest working environment for conducting what is often a dangerous business, the ANG director told an audience here June 23.

"However, we're not losing our people in the workplace, were losing them on the way home or to work and on the weekends," said Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III. "So we need to take that safety culture we've created for our professional lives, and (instill) it into the thought processes of our young Airmen so that they live that culture 24 hours a day."

That was the message of the 2010 Executive Safety Summit held here this week: to get Airmen to strive for zero safety incidents, both on and off the job.

"While on-duty, we're getting better in terms of safety, just like the general population," said Col. Doug Slocum, the director of safety for the Air Guard, "but off-duty, we've seen a spike in safety incidents.

"Over the last 15 years, incident rates have leveled out, but how can we get that margin down to zero so that every guardsman makes it home safely every night?" he asked.

Colonel Slocum said the solution begins with leadership.

"We've fallen short and failed as an organization 20 times so far this year, and anything that affects our guardsmen, preventing them from getting home safely, is unacceptable," he said.

One of the main topics discussed was safe motorcycle riding.

"Over time, airplanes and automobiles have become safer, but motorcycles have not," Colonel Slocum said. "When it comes to motorcycle safety, just the decision to ride a motorcycle is dangerous, and in order to get that margin to zero, we're going to have to make some tough decisions."

Cell phone use while driving is another major concern for the Air Guard safety staff, he said.

"Simply carrying on a conversation is unsafe while driving," Colonel Slocum said, "and statistically, hands-free devices do not make cell phone usage any safer."

Other safety areas that were covered included driving while drunk, speeding, use of seatbelts, nighttime activities, fatigue and its similarity to alcohol insobriety, and suicides.

"These behaviors can add up and can lead to one another," Colonel Slocum said. "From a leadership perspective, we can see the behaviors and the warning signs, and we can target those groups and identify problems before they become fatal."

He also said accidents affect the organization as a whole.

"When our people are not there, we can't do the mission," he said.

The burden of being able to recognize bad behaviors that could affect the welfare of guardsmen and the Air Guard's mission does not fall solely on leaders, the colonel said.

"We need to practice (the) wingman ethos, giving each other feedback when we see an unsafe act," he said.

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