Practice caution during 101 Critical Days of Summer

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Michael Wilson
  • Air Armament Center Vice Commander
As the temperatures rise and summer creeps back into the Emerald Coast, we in the Air Force are confronted with the challenge once again of how to protect our most valuable asset - our people - during the most dangerous period of the year. 

Traditionally, the summer period starting with the Memorial Day weekend through the Labor Day weekend has been the most hazardous for our troops and their families. In response to the rise in accidents during this period the Air Force adopted the "101 Critical Days of Summer" safety campaign to provide focused information that could assist our personnel in their summer activities. In fact, our Air Armament Center Safety Team has created and distributed information to all the unit safety representatives to use over the next several months. However, information is not enough. 

We all assume that our losses go up during the summer months due to the change in season. The weather is nicer and more can be done outside. However, I would venture to say it's more than the weather that increases our fatality rate during this period - it's a mindset change. 

During last year's 101 Critical Days of Summer, the Air Force lost 19 personnel. When you analyze these losses, you quickly begin to realize that it may not be the actual event that was inherently hazardous, but the combination of poor planning and poor personal risk management that greatly contributed to the fatality. During the summer months, our personnel are trying to "get the most" out of the time they have. They lower their defenses, press themselves harder and participate full force in activities they may not have ever done before, like jet skiing or boating. No matter what, they are setting themselves up for trouble. 

That's why, this summer, my challenge to the Eglin community goes not only out to everyone on the base, but especially out to the commanders and front line supervisors. It is up to the leaders on Eglin, from the newest airman to the oldest colonel, to instill the desire to do the right thing when it comes to safety over the coming months. 

My safety staff can arm you with the right information, but it is up to the leaders on base to use that information correctly to instill in all our personnel the knowledge and understanding to do the right thing. To use personal risk management, to back away from a bad setting, to have a plan, to use the right tools for the job at hand and to ask for help when it's needed. Without our leaders setting the example and enforcing the rules, we can only expect more of the same when it comes to the Critical Days of Summer, an increase in Air Force fatalities. 

Please know that our goal with the 101 Critical Days of Summer Safety Campaign is not to take the fun out of summer, but to ensure you have a fun and safe summer. I enjoy summer activities just as much as the next person, and I'm not going to stop what I'm doing. I'm just going to continue to make sure what I am doing is done right.