31 FW Safety Office protects Airmen, resources, combat capabilities

Airmen from the 31st Fighter Wing Safety Office pose with the United States Air Force Europe-Africa Commanders Trophy.

Airmen from the 31st Fighter Wing Safety Office pose with the United States Air Force Europe-Africa Commanders Trophy at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 15, 2019. The office earned it by accomplishing their goals of reducing mishaps, giving more safety outreach training and providing more safety recommendations to commanders in the 2018 fiscal year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kevin Sommer Giron)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy. --

A fire hydrant, damaged by an unsafely driven forklift, leaked water onto an office building’s parking lot. The water froze over and the next day an Airman slipped and broke their arm.

This real world scenario, recalled by Master Sgt. Victorio Gutierrez, 31st Fighter Wing Safety superintendent, cost the wing time, money, and resources.

Luckily, the 31st FW Safety Office is focused on mishap prevention and response. Their mission is to safe guard Airmen, protect resources and preserve combat capabilities.

“The mission is the priority, safety is our value,” said Gutierrez. “Priorities change, our values don’t – just like safety.”

They accomplish their mission through mishap prevention, a concept fixated on preventing accidents so Airmen can serve in a safe and healthy environment.

It’s a proactive approach that saves units money, equipment and man hours that would be lost if an accident were to occur.

Safety professionals manage safety programs for all units on base. In order to do this, the office is comprised of three sections; Weapons, Flight and Occupational Safety.

“We have different personalities that come from different backgrounds,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Hauser, 31st FW Weapons Safety manager. “We all have the title of safety but we have different specialties to do.”

Each section has a different area of responsibility. Weapon systems and aircraft maintenance Airmen fill special duty positions within Weapons and Flight Safety. Occupational Safety is comprised of Airmen who cross-trained into the safety career field. Regardless, they share some similar duties like facility and safety program inspections, training Airmen and advising commanders.

The 31st FW Safety Office set themselves apart from the rest during the 2018 fiscal year. They were awarded the United States Air Force Europe-Africa Commanders Trophy on top of two more major command level awards.

“We wanted to step out of the norm so we focused on what matters,” said Gutierrez. “We worked to achieve our goals of reducing mishaps, giving more safety outreach training and we provided more recommendations to commanders.”

They also aided in safe guarding one of the biggest priorities of the wing, earning them a U.S. Air Force Outstanding Achievement Award.

Their accomplishments led to an outstanding weapons surety rating, a reduction in lost duty time, less severe injuries and a standardization of safety processes for units on base.

After a very successful 2018, they hope to keep the momentum going in the new year.

Gutierrez said, “We’ll continue to work on our programs and continue to take the lessons learned from last year and just apply it to this year to improve our processes.”