Aviano goes M.A.D. for safety

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- As the 31st Fighter Wing Chief of Safety, I have been exposed to a variety of issues that really get my attention. The common theme among these issues is that all of them could result in our Airmen and/or our family members getting seriously injured, or worse.

I have spent a good deal of time working to boil this all down into the “lowest common denominator.” My thought was that if I couldn’t express it to the wing, I would be hard pressed to do anything about preventing these issues from happening.

Having gone through this mental process, three safety issues stand out above the others. This is not to say that other issues aren’t important or don’t warrant due vigilance. After reading countless safety reports, talking to our wing leadership and our Airmen, I feel certain that if we can control the following safety issues, our wing will be able to focus on our primary task -- to defend our nation in a time of war.

Having been on the receiving end of countless messages, I knew that just telling the wing what these fundamental safety concerns are would run the risk of being forgotten. As one of our great forefathers, Benjamin Franklin, said, “Many complain of their memory, few of their judgment.” So, we in safety came up with the following theme to help keep the topics solidly in your memory -- “Go M.A.D. for Safety!”

“What does that mean,” you say? I am glad you asked. M.A.D. is an acronym comprised of the following parts.

First, the “M” stands for major motor vehicle accidents, or MVA for short. A major accident is one in which someone is injured, a car is disabled (more than just a flat tire, etc.), or greater than $10,000 damage has occurred. Back to the point -- MVAs are one of those issues that really concerns me. The last fatality in our wing and the majority of fatalities in our wing come as a result of MVAs. Would you believe me if I told you that last fiscal year our wing had 151 MVAs?

The “A” stands for Class A mishaps. A Class A mishap is a way of categorizing a fatality, a permanent total disability (such as paralysis), or the loss or damage of an asset costing $1 million or more. Clearly, our goal should always be zero Class A mishaps. I can think of few things more crippling to our wing than to lose one of our own Airmen. Also, losing a valuable piece of equipment, such as one of our F-16s to a preventable mishap during this time of war would be a true waste of a national treasure.

Finally, the “D” stands for driving under the influence, or DUI. DUIs are particularly nasty because they can quickly lead to the “M” and the “A” above. In fiscal year 2005, our wing had 26 DUIs. So far this fiscal year, we have had 18 DUIs. Looking at the last 10 or so DUIs, nearly half of them have resulted in an MVA with substantial injuries. The drivers of these same DUIs have averaged over a .20 blood alcohol content.

I am grateful our Airmen have run into non-living stationary objects. Had one of these resulted in a head-on collision with an oncoming car, I know that lives could have been lost. Our commander, Brig. Gen. Robert Yates, has challenged the wing to have a DUI-free month in May. I feel we are up to the challenge. It is all about having a plan before drinking and sticking to it.

So there you have it. “Go M.A.D. for Safety!” is all about helping us remember to focus on reducing MVAs, having zero Class A mishaps and stopping DUIs in our great wing. Together, we need to foster a culture intolerant of unsafe practices. As individuals, we need to have the ability to step up and stop an unsafe series of events from spiraling into a tragic mishap. Each of us has the ability and responsibility to do so.