• Published
  • By Col. Tal W. Metzgar
  • AETC director of safety
As I write my first article as the director of safety for Air Education and Training Command, let me begin with how honored I am to rejoin a team with a legacy of excellence. I have been associated with AETC for the majority of my adult life ... as a student, instructor and staff officer. The men and women who comprise "the first command" are truly an elite force of professionals, dedicated to instilling our service's core values in everyone we train.

Long before 9/11, AETC performed its wartime mission training a lethal, technologically advanced force for combatant commanders. Our nation was able to respond and sustain a response, largely due to the product of this command -- Airmen! As "the first command" we are not only responsible for operational and technical training, but we instill the principles of risk management and safety consciousness that last a lifetime, well beyond a military career. Simply put, we teach job skills ... and life skills. We must take our business seriously, because the consequences of failure -- even momentary lapses in judgment, situational awareness or discipline -- are catastrophic.

Our Air Force is the most advanced, highly-trained, air force on the planet. The high cost to sustain this advantage demands our individual and collective effort to preserve and protect limited resources. In a recent discussion with the commander of Air Education and Training Command, Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., he remarked on the exponentially more expensive costs associated with today's mishaps. He added, "We can, and must, train to a new level."

The modern materials and methods to repair or replace equipment and weapon systems drive the total cost of mishaps higher and higher with each new generation. For example, a "total loss" associated with a legacy aircraft may cost taxpayers $3.5 million, but a modern combat aircraft only partially damaged may require $35 million and multiple years to repair. Unlike equipment, the loss of even one Airman, on or off duty, is priceless and irreplaceable.

Looking back at this past fiscal year, AETC suffered six fatalities ... all off duty, two occurring during the Critical Days of Summer (both the result of motorcycle mishaps). While we do a pretty good job on duty identifying, mitigating and/or eliminating risks, it's imperative for supervisors to understand what off-duty activities their Airmen are participating in. Simply annotating the AETC Form 410, High Risk Activities worksheet, is not enough. A periodic review and recurring conversation will reduce complacency and may encourage refresher training, much like our on-duty requirements. For members under the age of 26, an AETC Form 29B must be completed before departing on leave, temporary duty or permanent change of station.

We live and operate in a dangerous world. As we begin a new fiscal year, I challenge you as members of "the first command" to take your obligation to protect our personnel and resources to a higher level. Our command is in the unique position to recruit, train and instill our service's core values and sound risk management principles to keep our Air Force on the cutting edge. I look forward to serving with you as we continue our legacy of excellence.