AETC Occupational Safety team earns top Air Force honor

  • Published
  • By Tim Barela
  • Safety Directorate, Air Education and Training Command

Air Education and Training Command’s Occupational Safety Division won the 2023 Colonel Will L. Tubbs Memorial Award for Occupational Safety, which recognizes the best ground safety program in the Air Force, the Air Force Safety Center announced April 23.

“I extend my personal congratulations to you and your teams on a job well done,” said Maj. Gen. Sean Choquette, Air Force chief of safety and the commander of the Air Force Safety Center, in his announcement of the Air Force winners. “Thank you for setting the highest safety standards and increasing our combat readiness!”

AETC’s Occupational Safety Division set themselves apart from other major commands, field commands, direct reporting units and field operating agencies by producing the “most effective ground safety program” in the Air Force for fiscal year 2023, according to the safety center’s award announcement.

“I’m very proud of our entire safety team across all of the disciplines,” said Col. Will Phillips, AETC director of safety, “but occupational safety really raised the bar in 2023! They enhanced safety Department of the Air Force-wide through closing gaps in tactical vehicle safety, disseminating a critical fire prevention bulletin throughout AETC and to the other major commands, and working to ensure risk management is properly integrated into all accession syllabi. The thing I like most about our team is that they don’t wait for anyone else to solve a safety issue first. They jump in, figure it out, and then share what they’ve learned with the safety center and the other major commands across the Air and Space Forces.”

AFSEC even identified AETC’s occupational safety purchasing process as a best practice for purchasing unique vehicles, such as utility task vehicles, all-terrain vehicles and golf carts, by creating a form that considers both safety and logistics when deciding the appropriate UTV to purchase. This critical risk management measure ensures units are “getting the right tool for the job instead of purchasing a high-powered off-road vehicle when you really only need one that goes about 15 mph to haul some tools across the flight line, for example,” said Robbie Bogard, AETC Occupational Safety Division chief.

Bogard said he is especially proud of his team’s continued refinement of the command’s high-risk training programs in 2nd Air Force and within the Special Warfare Training Wing, as well as the risk management reviews, which have helped reduce hazards to AETC’s student population.

Other notable achievements included:

-The team designed and executed an AETC commander-directed risk management audit. They visited four wings, examining security forces, firefighters, special warfare, services and SERE (survival, evasion, resistance, escape) training; interviewed 225 Airmen on operational risk; and drafted six recommendations to enhance risk management across 65,000-plus personnel, including the youngest recruits and highest-risk training operations.

-Following a Class A building fire mishap, AETC’s occupational safety team took immediate action to notify AFSEC and other commands of a recalled power supply. This initiated a DAF-wide search in which 102 recalled units were identified and removed from service, avoiding imminent threats to personnel and property.

-The Air Force Safety Center lauded the team for aiding in reviving the “101 Critical Days of Summer” campaign by publishing 13 safety newsletters and 10 safety posters, stressing risk management in historically hazardous areas. They also posted more than 120 articles, infographics and videos on the web and social media to support the campaign.

AETC’s occupational safety staff has 85 years of safety experience, collectively. Staff members served as military training leaders, military training instructors, recruiters, podium instructors at the safety schoolhouse and a career field manager, as well as filling safety positions at AFSEC and NATO and serving on multiple safety investigation boards, Bogard said.

“This experience allowed us to truly understand the mission and how to become mission enablers, who help leadership come up with solutions that target mishap-free operations,” he said.

Bogard also says team chemistry plays a big role in their success. “We aren’t just co-workers; we’re friends,” he said. “We truly like each other, which makes coming to work each day a pleasure.”

Bogard is quick to point out, though, that this is a team award that stretches well beyond the walls of the headquarters safety staff.

“This award recognizes and acknowledges the hard work all AETC occupational safety staffs in the field accomplish daily,” he said. “This safety team is made up of seasoned professionals, leading programs at their wings, while simultaneously providing training to the new safety personnel we assign them. It can be a tough, thankless job at times; so, we are very appreciative of this honor and what it says about the stellar efforts of our occupational safety pros across First Command.”