• Published
  • AETC director of safety
As far as memorable summers go, summer of '69, with an associated safety message, is frequently explored in high school and college government classes. Most Torch readers are too young to actually remember the July 1969 car accident involving the late Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy. However, students worldwide continue to study the political fallout from the disastrous Chappaquiddick Island, Mass., incident that claimed the life of passenger Mary Jo Kopechne. Arguably, many believe the mishap affected the history of the United States in the form of a presidential election.

On a more personal note, the summer of 2001 stands out to me. The previous spring, as a young and energetic lieutenant colonel, I had left the Pentagon to command the 50th Education Squadron at the Air Force Academy. By July, my squadron was fully engaged in educating men and women, validating concepts in flight simulators and wargaming facilities, and hosting tens of thousands of visitors a year in our planetarium. I also had a blast energizing my safety program and even proposed to my group commander that our squadron should lead mishap prevention efforts for the whole group! My safety officer cringed, but I was elated when he said yes. And I'm pleased to say that during my tenure, our group suffered no fatalities.

For Air Education and Training Command, the summer of 2010 will go down as one of the best ever as far as safety and mishap prevention are concerned. Indeed, this is the first summer in the command's history that not a single active-duty military member lost his or her life to a preventable mishap, whether on or off duty. Furthermore, none of our civilians perished from on-duty mishaps either.

In reaching such a lofty goal, does luck play a part? Without a doubt.

Earlier this year, we had a 30-year-old technical sergeant lose control of his motorcycle and fall off an overpass to the ground some 60 feet below. He suffered multiple internal and external injuries, including fractures to his right arm, left wrist, T-spine and both hip joints, as well as a ruptured bladder and lacerated liver and spleen. Fortunately, he survived. In another incident, a 24-year-old airman first class pulled into the path of a semi tractor-trailer traveling on a highway with a posted speed limit of 65 mph. The Airman sustained a fractured hip, but will recover.

Obviously, the outcome of either of these incidents could have been far more tragic.

But while good fortune certainly played a part in our outstanding summer, luck favors the prepared. And as a command, we have never been more primed to reduce our preventable mishap numbers and save lives.

It's a testament to commanders, supervisors and wingmen at every level that their efforts are paying off.

You made the summer of 2010 so memorable because, for the first time ever, we didn't have to make any sad phone calls or visits to moms and dads to notify them that their child was lost in a senseless preventable mishap.

So, unlike the horrific Chappaquiddick incident, there will be no tragic mishap stories to recall that alter history. Instead, like my superstar squadron and group long ago, AETC proved we can achieve fatality-free summers. It's tough, but together, we can make it happen again.