101 Critical Days of Being a Wingman

  • Published
  • By Gary Cole
  • 75 ABW/SEG
It's not too hard to decide on a focus for the upcoming 101 Critical Days of Summer campaign. One only need look at last year's dismal statistics. No sense talking about keeping germs off your barbecued chicken when so many people are dying on the roads! The Air Force suffered 19 fatalities during the summer of 2007 - 15 of them in traffic mishaps. 

Breaking it down further, "loss of control" was one causal factor in six of the fatalities, and other external factors contributed to nine more.
Before you nod off on another boring safety article, consider something. Of those 19 Airmen who tragically lost their lives, how many got up that morning and decided to kill themselves before the next sunrise? Exactly! Not one. They all woke up just like you did this morning, looking forward to a full day and an even fuller life ahead of them. Only their "fuller" life consisted of just a few more hours, due to a lapse in judgment or a poor decision. Before reading any further, you need to get into your mindset that you aren't immune to making poor decisions - nor immune to the tragic consequences that sometimes follow. 

With our focus established, let's first look at why these accidents are happening. Speed is the No. 1 killer. The standard safety pitch you hear all the time is "Leave in plenty of time to travel," or "Pay attention to posted speed limits," but you all know the real reason for speeding. You drive your car or ride your bike around for three months and then decide you know everything there is to know about driving. You get way too comfortable with yourself and your machine. Besides, it's macho to test the limits of your new ride and impress your friends with your total command. Maybe a few cocktails are in the mix, too. Whatever the case, the world is your oyster! Except for one small problem: Physics. Yup, nature's laws don't know you from Adam and don't care if you're only 23 years old; try to defy them and you're toast! 

If we eliminated just the speed, alcohol and cockiness, we'd have at least 12 more Airmen walking around with us today. 

It seems as though I've run out of time and space for this article. I was going to run the whole gamut of our typical 101 Days topics, writing about lawnmower safety, gardening safety, and stretching before softball games. I'm not saying those aren't important;  it's just that I like to cut to the chase and target what needs targeting. Let's get this driving thing under control and then next year I promise we'll talk about insect bites or something! 

Besides, we can establish two factors of prevention for nearly all other summer activities: risk management and the Wingman principle. If you're not one for detail, you can narrow operational risk management into two steps: 1) identify the hazards, and 2) do something about them. 

In identifying hazards, just consider all the things that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Think of a deer standing in a field, peacefully grazing, when suddenly its head pops up and its tail flashes. "Danger, danger!" If that creature can sense danger, surely you can tell when you're about to do something stupid. If not, let's hope you have a good wingman. 

That brings us to the next factor. Each of us is responsible for our wingmen's health and welfare, as the subtitle of this magazine says: "Airmen taking care of Airmen." If they're not smart enough to take care of themselves, it'll be up to us. We wouldn't let them do something stupid and die in a convoy through downtown Baghdad, so why don't we get involved when they fly past us at Mach II on their bullet bikes, or zip in and out of traffic just to get someplace two minutes quicker? 

I didn't cover half the subjects that I originally intended to, but I hope I at least got you to think - and act - toward a long, safe, and enjoyable summer.  Remember, "Involvement" is the key to being a good wingman. n