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Protecting our most valuable resource

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Well, we are half way through our "101 Critical Days of Summer" and I am pleased to say we have improved over our safety numbers from one year ago. That tells me you are taking care of yourselves and your fellow Airmen.

To ensure we continue this positive trend throughout the remainder of the summer, I encourage you to evaluate your behavior and be a good Wingman to your fellow Airmen. Understanding high-risk behavior and taking steps to reduce the chances of mishaps, injuries and fatalities saves lives.

I would like to say the Air Force has not experienced any deaths this summer, but sadly, that is not the case. To date, we have lost seven Airmen. An Airman and a staff sergeant were killed on motorcycles, another staff sergeant died in a car crash, a master sergeant died while snorkeling, an Airman 1st Class died while kayaking, a lieutenant colonel died in a private plane crash shortly after take-off and another Airman died when the car he was working on slipped off the hydraulic lift and crushed him.

As these deaths show, things can happen in the blink of an eye to any of us. That's why I want all of us to make "Operational Risk Management" a part of our daily routines. These principles can be used at work, home and while participating in a variety of activities to prevent many mishaps and fatalities. It comes down to asking some questions: What am I doing? What can go wrong? Could I hurt myself or others? What actions can I take to reduce or eliminate danger/risk?

These questions are especially important during the summer, when many of us take advantage of the abundance of outdoor activities in our local area, especially the river and ocean that surround us. Airmen and their families should have all required safety gear on hand and take special care while participating in water sports. Never swim without a buddy. Ensure you understand how to operate any boating equipment you plan on using and get the proper licensing if required. Our employees at the Outdoor Recreation office are always there to help keep you safe - and legal.

And if you're planning a road trip, please remember to let common sense and safety trump the chorus of "are we there yet?" coming from the back seat.

Wear seatbelts in cars and required protective equipment on motorcycles. Remain alert while at the wheel and plan rest breaks at frequent intervals. Don't speed - it is better to arrive late than not arrive at all. Don't drink and drive. Anticipate the unexpected and be ready to react.

Like I've said, nothing is more important to me and more valuable to our wing than you. Our people are our most precious resource.

Again, always use operational risk management and good judgment before engaging in high-risk activities. We must not let down our guard and our awareness. Not even for a second. Safety risks never take a break. And neither should you. Be safe. Go Sharks!