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CHANGING WITH THE LEAVES

Col. James L. Fisher, AETC director of safety

Col. James L. Fisher, AETC director of safety

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- As this issue of Torch comes to you, schools have begun for another new year, fall sports like football and soccer have kicked off, and a new fiscal year has started for our Air Force. Along with this new season, your Air Education and Training Command Safety staff has also seen some changes.

With Col. Tal Metzgar's recent retirement, I have taken the reins as the new AETC director of safety. I come to you having completed a year deployment to Afghanistan, serving on a joint and coalition multi-national staff in Kabul. I have served as an aviator and commander in AETC and am excited to serve again alongside all of you in the First Command.

All these changes remind me that every new season brings added stress and new challenges. We recently completed the Critical Days of Summer campaign, and tragically, 21 of our fellow Airmen lost their lives to accidents during this period across our Air Force. One of those fallen Airmen came from AETC. Across the service, familiar foes reared their heads: Nine people died in motorcycle-related mishaps and seven in four-wheel automobile mishaps.

The Critical Days of Summer each year asks us to be vigilant during summer vacation time as children are out of school, and outdoor activities peak with the rising temperatures. However, as the leaves start to turn and the crisp fall air begins, please continue to use all your risk management principles while participating in fall activities. Whether participating in riding sports or out in your personal vehicle, the changing weather and temperature patterns introduced by the fall months present new challenges and a need to refocus on risk management and safe operations.

While road accidents comprised the majority of our mishaps, sports and recreationrelated accidents continue to occur. While the temperatures might not lend themselves to the summer water sports during the cooler months, a whole new set of winter sports are just around the corner. Please be sure to address these changes in temperature and to prepare and have contingency plans for your winter sports activity.

In addition to changes in the weather this time of year, we have entered into a new fiscal operating year for the Air Force. As in every other year, this one will bring new challenges, new guidance and new expectations. This past year in the Air Force presented all of us with some unique challenges, including reductions in manning throughout and the furloughs of our civilian workforce to meet fiscal goals.

These uncertain constraints are likely to continue this year and will undoubtedly present challenges in your individual work centers. Please don't allow these limitations to affect your decision making and solid risk management principles. We are learning to adapt to these realities to accomplish our mission in a resource-limited environment, but safety of your personnel shouldn't be compromised with these changes.

Again, I am humbled to serve with you and look forward to continuing the outstanding culture of safety within the First Command.