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March to the beat of a different summer

  • Published
  • By Col. William W. Phillips
  • Air Education And Training Command Safety Office

As we approach Memorial Day, many of you are looking forward to family vacations, four federal holidays, and water sports and recreation over the next few months. The longer days, extended holiday weekends, expanded outdoor activities, and increased travel historically lead to spikes in injuries and fatalities. Last year alone Air and Space Forces lost 11 Airmen and Guardians to off-duty preventable mishaps.

In Air Education and Training Command, we experienced 31 sports and recreation mishaps last summer, and two fatal mishaps. But this year, let’s shift the mindset and march to the beat of a different summer. I could talk about lapses in judgment, a lack of situational awareness and complacency that factor into these mishaps, and all of those are vitally important. But, I think we also need to focus on the profound impact to the loved ones, peers, and friends who were left behind. Late last year, several enterprising Airmen from Altus Air Force Base, Okla., produced a short safety video that still sticks with me.

In their story, the main character imagines how each of the loved ones in his life would suffer if he were gone as he decides whether to skip putting on a helmet before departing on a motorcycle ride. As you consider your activities this summer and the risks they incur, please take a minute to consider the impact not just to you, but also to those around you should you be injured or killed. Every Airman is a critical member of our team, and part of a vital capability for our nation.

This is not to say that you should avoid risk altogether. Risk is inherent in almost everything we do, but as you make plans, make sure you pause to contemplate whether the risks outweigh the rewards. As I’ve said before, safety is a team sport. Work together to find ways to hold onto summer fun while carefully considering which risks are worth taking and which are not. If you see something unsafe developing, speak up or take action. Have fun, enjoy your family and friends, and remember “See Something, Do Something…Live to Be Lethal!”