• Published
  • By Col. Creig A. Rice
  • AETC director of safety
With the Critical Days of Summer upon us, it's not only time to talk the talk; it's time to walk the walk.

Many people think risk management is something they just do at work -- when they are out on the flight line around multi-million dollar aircraft or turning dirt with a bulldozer. I would offer that risk management should transcend everything we do.

For example, the Air Education and Training Command safety office recently did an offsite teambuilding exercise at the base trap and skeet range. You might recall seeing an article in Torch a while back about shotgun safety and an example of an experienced shooter taking part of his foot off at the skeet range. Needless to say, before we started shooting, we took the time to ensure everyone was trained on the task at hand, had the proper protective gear and understood the inherent risk involved in the activity as well as the mitigation efforts. ... This is the type of risk management that has to be part of how we do business.

Since AETC is the "First Command" for our Airmen, instilling a culture of risk management, both on and off duty, with our young Airmen is our job ... the buck stops with us. Statistics tell us that males, age 18 to 25, are the ones most likely to abandon sound risk management practices and be injured or killed in a risky activity. As leaders, instructors, trainers and educators, the example we set in this command helps shape our young Airmen and, in turn, our Air Force ... many times in ways we don't even imagine.

A civilian employee in the command recently relayed a story to us that illustrated this point well. She told us that she had gotten into the bad habit of tailgating while driving. She always seemed to be in a hurry and knew she followed people too closely. But because she had at least 20 years of driving experience, her reaction time and instincts -- and maybe a little luck -- had thus far helped her to avoid an accident.

What she didn't account for, though, is how well her young son was picking up on her bad habits. As he rode with her year after year, he was gaining a sense of what a "safe" driving distance was. When he finally reached driving age, he fell right into his mom's risky patterns. However, he did so without the benefit of her years of driving experience and instincts.

The result wasn't tough to predict. Her son had four fender benders over the next 18 months. Luckily, none of them led to any injuries or fatalities, but it did hurt the pocketbook in terms of body shop fees and rising insurance premiums.

When it comes to risk management, just as anything in life, you never know who will be watching -- and learning -- from you.