Protecting those who serve, ‘Grand Slam’ safety office

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Cynthia A. Innocenti
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar—Members of the U.S. Air Force have dedicated their lives to protecting and keeping others safe from harm, but who is protecting them? The answer is their fellow wingmen.


Airmen with the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Safety Office aim to protect their fellow personnel here by mitigating risks within all aspects of the mission at Al Udeid AB. This is accomplished through three different components of safety: occupational, flight and weapons safety.


While deployed, flight safety Airmen deal with anything involving aircraft-related safety matters, for instance, advising on safe night driving regulations due to lower visibility.


“Our job exists to prevent future mishaps; we look for trends in flight safety that could be mitigated,” said Capt. Marc Goodman, a flight safety officer with the 379th AEW. “Aircraft safety related issues run the gambit from hardware to environment.”


Other matters addressed by flight safety include: crewmembers being more susceptible to heat-related injuries due to aircraft temperatures 20-40 degrees hotter than ambient air; wildlife hazards; aircraft operating in congested airspace, greatly increasing the likelihood of a midair collision; and ensuring flight crews’ knowledge of emergency checklists in the event of an aircraft malfunction.


“The aviation community is small and close, making it almost impossible to not know or know of someone who has lost a friend or loved one to an aircraft mishap, making our job in the flight safety office indispensable,” said Capt. Aaron Sanchez, a flight safety officer with the 379th AEW.


Given the intricacies of operating in a deployed environment, the flight safety section also interacts often with host nation counterparts.


“Our interactions have all been with Qatar Emiri Air Force personnel to include: safety, airfield management, and environmental officers,” said Lt. Col. Jasen Beckman, chief of safety with the 379th AEW. “We focus primarily on exchanges of information and procedures.  We have also been working hard to do a combined project involving bird exclusionary measures designed to reduce the bird-to-aircraft strike hazards for our pilots, Qatari pilots and coalition pilots.”


In line with the work of flight safety, weapons safety Airmen give insight on the safe transportation, storage and handling of explosives.


“We are preserving our number one asset, which is people,” said Master Sgt. Jordan Martin, the weapons safety superintendent. “We are helping members do their job successfully by keeping explosive safety at the forefront of their minds.”


Weapons safety inspections play a vital part in the mission, providing the weapons safety section an opportunity to see Airmen in their work environment firsthand, in order to catch any issues before they worsen.


Either of the previously mentioned areas of safety have the potential to result in loss of life, however, it’s the third component, occupational safety, that has the most mishap reports at Al Udeid, as it covers on and off duty related occurrences.


“We investigate anything job-related that could put members in imminent danger of life or health,” said Tech. Sgt. Angela Posadas, an occupational safety technician.


The occupational safety section leads multiple areas of safety concerns including: confined spaces, areas not meant for human occupancy that could lead to engulfment, entrapment or asphyxiation; hazardous materials, often referred to as hazmat; construction; and traffic safety.


A prime example of the measures these Airmen implement resulted from several near misses to pedestrians by vehicle traffic.


“Bus passengers identified a bus stop that was very dark and required them to cross a road with high-speed traffic,” said Beckman. “Our office engaged with the 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron and 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron to move the bus stop and create an area for the busses to pull off the road. This eliminated the risk to the bus riders.”


Whether a bus stop has been moved to a safer area, a drain gutter has been reconstructed or a mishap has been mitigated, the safety team has Airmen’s lives at the forefront of their mind. Through the combined efforts of the three safety sections, the 379th AEW’s robust safety program continues to keep personnel safe in their support of operations across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.