Air Force Chief of Safety Visits PACAF

  • Published
  • By Maj Sebastian J. Carrado
  • Air Force Safety Office
"Safety should be everyone's priority" was the central theme of the visit to the Pacific Air Force theater by Maj. Gen. Wendell L. Griffin, the Air Force Chief of Safety and commander of the Air Force Safety Center.

The two-star has made it a point since becoming the Air Force's senior safety officer in June 2007 to spend time with each major command's safety offices, to see some of the critical safety issues and concerns they face, and to talk about his priorities.

In February, accompanied by Col. John Kreger, the PACAF chief of safety, the general set out to spread the safety message. He engaged in an extensive visit to pitch his three primary points at five installations -- Hickam AFB, Yokota AB, Misawa AB, Kadena AB and Andersen AFB. Speaking to an audience of operators and maintainers at the first-ever 35th Maintenance Group Quarterly Safety Meeting at Misawa AB, Japan, Maj. Gen. Griffin listed the three main items on his scope: Leadership, Operational Risk Management/Maintenance Resource Management, and the Wingman philosophy. These points have been at the center of his aggressive campaign to take the safety message to the field. He also emphasized how critical it is for commanders to be engaged and to put safety on their scopes.

"It's all about leadership and commander involvement. If leadership makes it a priority and gives it attention, the force will take notice, and it will get better," he said.

He also highlighted the importance of reinvigorating ORM/MRM as part of his back-to-basics approach. These programs focus their functional communities on assessing and minimizing risks inherent in the nature of doing their jobs. ORM/MRM should be applied where guidance is not available or doesn't cover all aspects of a situation -- which includes a great deal of what the Air Force is doing today. Even where technical order guidance provides instructions, human factors, the environment and other issues must be evaluated. That's where ORM/MRM comes into play. ORM/MRM is intended to help identify and minimize unnecessary risk. In operations and maintenance, people get into trouble when they cut corners and don't follow procedures. If your conscience is questioning what you're doing or how you're doing it, step back and re-assess. As Maj. Gen. Griffin pointed out to the group, "If you hear someone talk about a 'work-around' or 'shortcut,' that should make the hair on the back of your neck stand up."

He then transitioned into his third point, the Wingman culture. He applauded the Wingman concept, saying, "In 32 years of service, I've seen programs come and go, and this is a great program. It's all about Airmen taking care of Airmen. Everyone should be a wingman, and everyone should have a wingman. I have a wingman; you should have a wingman." He emphasized that the Air Force is building a culture that says when people see something wrong, they'll identify it, report it and attempt to fix it 24/7.

Other areas the general touched on included human factors being at the heart of many mishaps, on and off duty. Whether it is aircraft maintenance, flying, or driving a car or motorcycle, the concepts and problems remain the same. He also focused on reaching out in the right way to ensure our high-risk group of 18-to-26-year-olds, whom he called "The Indestructibles," are getting the right message, in the medium they work and play in.

"Saving lives and protecting resources -- that is the bottom line for a safety program, and it's how I will judge myself after this command. We need to get our eyes back on the target. We need an increased focus on the safety analysis of near misses and almost-mishaps. We need to analyze the leading indictors of where the next mishap is going to be, and prevent it from happening. The key is to create a safer environment, on and off duty." 

Maj. Gen. Wendell Griffin, AF Chief of Safety, observed aboard an AWACS mission with the 961st AACS while visiting Kadena AB, Japan, seeing some of the safety issues these dedicated Airmen face every day.  (Back row, left to right: Maj. Gen. Wendell L. Griffin, Staff Sgt. Christine Holbrook, Staff Sgt. Katharine Hallows. Front row, left to right: Tech. Sgt. Eduardo Osorio, Airman 1st Class David Hibson.)