A year in safety

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jeff Schreiner
  • 509th Bomb Wing Chief of Safety
"Happy to do the job, but you know I'm more of a weapons and tactics guy right?"

That was my response in December 2010 when I received the call telling me I needed to go to training to be the chief of safety. I had no idea at the time what an incredible and difficult job it would be. After a year on the job I've grown in my understanding of how the wing operates and more importantly how Team Whiteman works together to get the mission done.

We ask a lot of our Airmen every day. From my position, your actions and mission focus have been outstanding -- on time on target every time! As I prepare to transition back into the operations group in June I wanted to highlight a few lessons and observations I've collected during my tenure.

Safety is a 24/7 year round commitment for Airmen. Whiteman AFB plays a vital role in our national defense with both our global strike and nuclear deterrence mission. Both require a credible response at a moment's notice. As Airmen we must manage risk both at work and in our personal lives so that we can respond when the mission calls. Off duty mishaps continue to impact the mission with lost days due to injury. In most cases a little risk management would have prevented the mishap.

Life can be tough ... it's tougher when you don't ask for help. The vast majority of mishaps we investigate from minor injuries to deaths were all preventable if the people involved just asked for help or if a good wingman stepped in to intervene. It might be as simple as asking someone to spot a vehicle for you when backing up, taking the keys from a friend that's had too much to drink, or making the difficult decision to confront a friend that needs help in their life with personal problems. People normally want to help each other. The problem is that we fail to ask.

Resiliency is more than a Wingman Day buzzword. In every safety mishap investigation we look for a chain of events that led up to the final result. The same thing goes in our personal lives. People rarely just break down from stress or a single problem in their lives. It's an accumulation of issues over time not properly dealt with that lead to a fall. Resiliency is our ability to bounce back and break the chain before really bad things happen. It's not a concept that we just trot out on Wingman Day. It's something we need in our lives all the time. Being resilient also means not being afraid to ask for help.

I've enjoyed this past year and it was an honor to serve as your chief of safety. For me it was a stark reminder of just how critical people are to the mission. We can have the best equipment, training and tactics, but without Airmen to do the heavy lifting, nothing will get accomplished.

Stay safe Team Whiteman and remember that every one of you has an impact on the mission and the security of this nation!