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AF chief of safety: ‘Double checks, not second thoughts’

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Mareshah Haynes
  • Air Force News Service

Every Airman needs to be in the habit of double checks and not second thoughts, the new Air Force chief of safety said in an interview highlighting the close of this year’s Critical Days of Summer campaign.

“I understand working under time constraints and getting the mission done, but we must be in the habit of double checks," Maj. Gen. Kurt Neubauer said. "The tendency is that with more experience and confidence, we may not be as likely to do double checks, and a double check never hurts.”

As the new chief of safety, Neubauer oversees all Air Force Safety Center operations. Charged with the mission to prevent mishaps and preserve combat capability, the Air Force Safety Center’s span reaches every Airman around the world.

Neubauer began his tenure as the Critical Days of Summer wrapped up and recently shared his observations of how Airmen can continue to safely operate in the future.

“We finished the Critical Days of Summer with 21 fatalities,” Neubauer said. “In each of the past two years, those numbers were 16 and 18 respectively. “

Neubauer also noted the uptick in mishaps toward the end of the fiscal year. This is something he and members of the safety center continue to research and evaluate.

“Over the last five fiscal years, we lost 300 Airmen and 48 aircraft at a cost of almost $2.2 billion," he said. "The value of the resource is important, but the human cost is what I’m most concerned about. Airmen are the chassis of every weapon that we field in the Air Force. Without Airmen, you don’t get airpower.

“Certainly, the dollar cost concerns us because we need to make sure we’re good stewards of the equipment that we’ve been given by the taxpayers," Neaubauer said. "But the human cost is just as important -- if not more important -- because it’s not just the loss of the Airman in the mishap. That loss ripples through squadrons and families. It changes you forever.”

Even though the loss of one Airman is one too many, Neubauer assures the force that on a whole, the Air Force is on par with current safety statistics.

“If you look at it in context over the whole level of activity and operations for the United States Air Force, whether it’s in the category of ground, flight, weapons or space related mishaps, and you evaluate all those moving parts that are going on 24/7 365 days a year, I think we do fairly well, “ he said. “That said, we need to do better.”

According to the Air Force Personnel Center website, there are more than 326,000 Airmen in the Air Force. Neubauer and his team of safety experts are responsible for making sure each of those Airmen is knowledgeable in how to operate safely and successfully in their respective career fields.

“Given the fact that the Air Force is a risk business – what we do in training and in combat, involves a certain amount of calculated risk -- I think we’ve got some very good control measures to help us balance those risk and reward decisions,” Neubauer said. “Whether it’s (Air Force instructions) guidance; policies; tactics, techniques and procedures; those touchstones are all the result of years of experience, practice and learning. They provide the foundation for a robust and invigorated safety program.”

Throughout the Air Force’s history, Airmen have been able to build upon the lessons learned of those who came before them in the form of AFIs and other guidance. Neubauer calls for Airmen to continue to integrate those references into their daily habits and remember the fundamentals of safety in their day-to-day operations.

“If we are brilliant in the basics and always strive to do everything by the book, it will raise the bar for everyone,” he said.