• Published
  • By Col. Tal W. Metzgar
  • AETC director of safety
Do you see a familiar pattern in the following statements? "I didn't think ... the blade on the table saw was that high." "I didn't think ... I was reaching too far (atop a ladder)." "I didn't think ... anything would happen; I've done it this way before." "I didn't think ... it would happen to me."

How many times in the aftermath of a mishap have you heard the phrase, "I didn't think ... (finish the sentence)?" Or, "If only I had stopped a minute to think about it."

On the safety front, it's been a difficult start to fiscal year 2013 for the Air Force. As we approach the halfway point, we are on a pace to double our on-duty fatality rate from the previous two years -- all of them preventable mishaps. Additionally, the Air Force is ahead of last year's off-duty fatality rate, with the majority of mishaps occurring while operating private motor vehicles, mostly motorcycles, followed by automobiles and pedestrians on or near roadways ... and the Critical Days of Summer are still in front of us.

It's time to STOP ... and think! Think about how you will achieve the desired outcome and avoid unwanted potentially catastrophic "alternate endings."

World-class athletes use "visualization" as a technique to realize their goals. By seeing an event in their mind prior to the attempt, visualization enables athletes to focus on the key components, anticipate and counter problems, then successfully reach their goal. This is the foundation of the risk management process. Albeit not as detailed, over the years, the Department of Defense has used the same concept to develop risk management principles and slogans to achieve a similar result; for example, "Look, Think, Do" or the classic "OODA" loop, Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.

Whatever technique you employ, the bottom line is to use your intellect to overcome your natural tendencies to "jump in and do it." Amazingly, these principles work on- or off-duty. If only I had stopped to think about the consequences of that "stupid human trick" while trying to impress my friends.

While our senior military and government leaders expend intellectual capital wrestling with budget reductions and transformational change to reduce costs and maintain mission effectiveness, we must also pause -- and think -- as we continue to apply sound risk management principles and personal discipline to preserve precious, irreplaceable resources. All of our "cost saving" efforts and "change initiatives" will be negated if we fail to reduce costly mishaps.

Don't let 2013 be an unlucky year for you! Remember, each one of us has the authority and responsibility to call "knock-it-off" when the risk outweighs the potential benefit. Let's replace "I didn't think" with ..."I stopped to think ..." (then finish the sentence with a success story).