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"I want people to be able to count on us and, hopefully, emulate the policies and programs we put in place to prevent mishaps and save lives". -- Col. John W. Blumentritt, AETC Director of Safety

While working his way through college as an emergency medical room technician in San Angelo, Texas, during the early '80s, John Blumentritt saw a lot of people severely injured and even killed. Nobody had to tell him what happens when you drink and drive or play with a gun. He witnessed it firsthand through the patients he helped treat.

"I wanted to help people, to protect them," he said. "But I also learned from their mistakes."

Four masters degrees and more than 3,000 flying hours later, those attributes have served him well in a 22-year Air Force career. Now a colonel and the new director of safety for Air Education and Training Command, Colonel Blumentritt has held numerous flying, staff and command positions worldwide. He is a command pilot, logging his flying time in combat rescue and special operations aircraft.

"My attitude about safety today isn't much different than when I was in college," the colonel said. "I still want to help and protect people. And I'm still going to learn from people's mistakes."

The big difference is as director of safety, he has to help ensure that the rest of the command also understands the importance of safety and risk management.

It's not a responsibility he takes lightly.

"Protecting our people and our resources is a top priority," Colonel Blumentritt said. "I want people to be able to look at the AETC Safety Directorate and know we are committed to them. I want them to be able to count on us and, hopefully, emulate the policies and programs we put in place to prevent mishaps and save lives."

The colonel's vast and varied experiences in his Air Force career should serve him well as the new director of safety.

After graduation and commissioning in 1983, and earning his pilot wings in 1985, he served as a helicopter pilot in Japan, Iceland, Alaska, Nevada and Florida. He also served as an HH-60G aircraft commander for the 4412th Rescue Squadron in Kuwait City, Kuwait, in 1993. He has flown many rescue and special operations missions worldwide, and earned the U.S. Air Force MacKay Trophy for commanding the most meritorious flight of a U.S. Air Force aircraft in 1994. During this mission, featured in the February 1999 issue of Reader's Digest, he and his team fought ocean waves of 30 feet and winds of 70 knots to rescue six Icelanders stranded on top of a ship battered by an intense storm.

He also served as a strategist in the Pentagon, where he and his team developed crisis response options and advocated for the effective employment of air and space power. He subsequently took this real-world expertise to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado, and commanded a squadron that impacted 4,000 cadets annually through 10 academic courses, airplanes, jet simulators, war gaming facilities and a planetarium.

During his assignment to Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, he served for two years on the personal staff of the AETC commander. As such, he directed a 12-person action group that orchestrated the efforts of 81,500 men and women in providing academic education to more than 130,000 people, training to about 250,000 students, and recruiting of more than 36,000 officers and enlisted members into the Air Force per year. He then served as the 19th Air Force chief of safety, and flew the Diamond DA-20 as part of the decentralized initial flight screening program in San Antonio (related story on page 20). While at 19th, he led mishap prevention programs for 31,000 people, who are responsible for training more than 20,000 aircrew members in 1,850 aircraft at 26 locations per year. He served in that capacity until he was assigned as the AETC director of safety in September.

"I'm excited about serving as the command's director of safety," Colonel Blumentritt said. "As we head into the New Year, I look forward to working with and meeting military and civilian members from all of our AETC bases. Together we will strive to reduce mishaps, injuries and fatalities."