Are you prepared?
By Senior Master Sgt. Todd Sparks, 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron superintendent
/ Published July 13, 2011
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
As a young person coming into the military in 1986, I can recall plenty of times when a few guys and girls from the jet engine shop would make last minute plans to go out on the town of Madrid, Spain, or even a last minute journey through the mountains. It was typically spontaneous with little to no preparation. In this instance, Brett, Doug and I had intended to take an afternoon journey to see some areas of Spain we had never before visited since a friend had loaned us his Fiesta while he went TDY. We filled up the gas tank before we departed the base with nothing more than our cameras and the clothes on our back.
Driving beyond the normal routes of Madrid we enjoyed the beautiful fall scenery and vast olive groves along the route. Several hours into our journey we encountered some snow in the upper elevations, it was getting colder and none of us had brought a jacket. We pressed on with our local map (in Spanish-which none of us could read) intending to see more points of interest. As evening approached, the snowfall continued to increase, so we decided to make our afternoon drive a two day journey. Pulling into a local hotel we realized Brett was the only one of us who had enough Pesetas to pay for the room (credit cards weren't readily available then), so he fronted us the money. The next morning we set a course for some of the Spanish aqua ducts in a nearby town and then we would turn back toward Torrejon Air Base, Spain.
The craftsmanship of the aqua ducts was amazing; to fully understand how the water was moved by gravity through the ducts across great areas was almost unfathomable. We departed the area late in the afternoon and headed back to base and thankfully the snow had all melted away. During the journey back we calculated our drive length in relation to the time the chow hall would close; we figured we could make it in time. Let me tell you, speeding through the countryside on small unknown roads can be terrifying while trying to beat the clock. We made it back to base with a few minutes to spare, as we sat down enjoying the wonderful free chow hall meal. To our amazement nobody ever knew we had left the base and nobody was looking for us. It was a successful trip.
The next year, we received our 101 Days of Summer safety briefing and I could never really understand who would actually do the some of the stupid events we heard about, until I thought about our journey. As we looked back we laughed about it, but what did we really plan for? We had not told anyone we were leaving the base for the day, let alone two days. We encountered snow along our route; we never even thought about snow, and didn't even have jackets. Thankfully, one person had taken enough money along to pay for the journey. We took off for some fun, but encountered many obstacles we had never prepared for.
Throughout my career I have supervised many people and have often wondered why they make decisions that are not well thought out. Then, I think of our last minute journey through Spain and realize we never really were prepared to think about safety. Sure, we got briefed many times, but never really learned to be prepared and think the plan through. Think of that next time you talk to your young people, even your own children; are you preparing them to be safe and think ahead, or are you just giving them the briefing?