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From the top: Thanks to junior enlisted: Let's be safe out there

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- This isn't the way we had hoped to begin the summer months. In the first 13 days of the Critical Days of Summer, five Airmen have died in accidents.

All five were between the ages of 22 and 27-years-old. All were junior enlisted Airmen, and four of the deaths were highway related deaths-excess speed being a factor in at least two of those deaths, loss of control in another and "lane-splitting" on a bike in England resulted in another one when he was hit and killed.

Another Airman drowned while kayaking on a local lake.

The point we are making-and will continue to make-is that life is too precious to be taking chances. There are things we can control: driving speed and being smart are two of them.

There are five Air Force families who can tell you what it is like experiencing tragedies like these. Please, please be careful out there. YOU are our #1 asset!

Let's change gears for a moment.

Today is also the day we will honor and thank all of our joint service junior enlisted personnel with a huge picnic in their collective honor at the Tides.

Chief Moyer and I, along with many of other leaders from the 45th Space Wing and our mission partners, will be proud to work the grills and serving lines and thank them in person for what they bring to the fight here on the Space Coast.

As many of you know, I was raised by an Air Force enlisted Airman, Chief Master Sergeant Jim Cotton.

All my life, from the time I can remember, I was surrounded by enlisted Airmen who either worked with or for my father.

I learned at an early age that our enlisted force is the backbone of our organization, and it is the honored responsibility of our NCOs, government civilian supervisors and officers to mold and mentor these great young men and women to replace "us"; be better than "us". Never forget your role in our great Air Force. Your legacy is making it better each and every day. Keep pushing, Sharks!