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Is 'Safety' a buzzword?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Michael Calvaresi
  • 90th Missile Wing Safety chief
The 90th Missile Wing has a long and rich tradition of being the best in our business. Although our Mighty Ninety Wranglers make it look easy, our mission is constant and demanding. So how do we maintain the expected operations tempo? It certainly doesn't come without its share of challenges. Add to that, our nuclear mission is inherently dangerous. With the right mix of highly skilled Airmen, leadership at all levels and a wingman culture embracing a "Mission First, Safety Always" mindset, we consistently demonstrate our professionalism to the American public, our military/political leaders, and yes, even to our adversaries.

With particular focus on the wingman culture as it relates to our mission, most of us are familiar with the hazardous aspects of our respective mission areas. We routinely cover safety considerations during pre-departure briefings such as guardmount, mission planning, etc. We've been able to leverage years of experience and "lessons learned" by integrating this knowledge into our daily planning briefs, technical orders, and functional area processes ... with astounding results!

With daily activities ranging from helicopter operations to major maintenance to persistent security force presence, we have an amazingly low on-duty mishap rate. We consistently prove our ability to safely accomplish the mission. How? Simply put, we practice safety measures in an effort to offset the risks inherent in our mission. But should safety be exclusive to the work environment? How do we translate our work center safety mindset into everyday use outside of work?

I'm sure many of us can relate to the anticipation and excitement of getting ready to take leave to go on a long-planned trip. We might consider starting our leave immediately after a full workday and intend to drive through the night to get to our destination as early as possible. Before going on vacation, we often hear the following words from our friends, family and even supervisors: "Be safe" or "Safe travels." Safety seems to be a buzzword concept often used casually in conversation outside the work environment. We hear these comments time and again, but do we really make an effort to put those words into practice? Are we more willing to take risks the further we get from home station?

Incorporating safety measures into our travel/vacation planning is one thing, but let's consider our safety mindset during our typical off-duty time in and around the house. One example that comes to mind includes the following conversation: "What are you doing this weekend?" "Oh, just working on the 'honey-do' list." Many hobbies we enjoy are usually accompanied with its share of hazards. For example, sports, auto work, do-it-yourself projects, etc., all come with some level of risk. In general, we readily accept those risks; otherwise, we'd never do anything in life for fear of exposing ourselves to any hazard.

Most people take adequate safety precautions in their daily activities. I would argue we can all do more. For example, while recognizing the common hazards in fixing a leaky pipe, have we looked at surrounding hazards that could unexpectedly increase risks such as nearby electrical conduits/outlets? When riding a motorcycle, do we consider road conditions, wearing the proper personal protective equipment and our riding experience before getting on our bike? The list goes on and on; we can apply safety concepts in almost everything we do.

As mentioned earlier, our wing mission is inherently dangerous. Despite that, we take specific safety measures to reduce risk to our Airmen and equipment. I challenge you to take this safety mindset one step further. With a concerted effort, we can all take steps to identify and reduce risks in almost any activity. By doing this, we ensure "safety" is not just a buzzword and we begin to internalize safe practices as part of our routine. So go out and enjoy life ... but be safe!