101 Critical Days begin May 26

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Air Force Space Command’s 101 Critical Days of Summer campaign kicks off over the Memorial Day weekend and is focused this year on personal protective equipment usage and wingman applications.

The annual campaign has run since the early 1980s and was developed to counter the traditional increase in Air Force mishaps and fatalities that occur during the summer months. Each installation targets its efforts based on local hazards and needs.

The 101 CDS campaign officially begins May 26 and ends at 4 p.m. Sept. 4—the Labor Day weekend. During the 2005 campaign, the Air Force reported 29 fatalities compared to 32 in 2004 and 37 in 2003, according to the Air Force Safety Center. Major contributing factors were speeding, not using seatbelts or helmets and alcohol usage; although only two fatalities in fiscal year 2005 were attributed to alcohol compared to nine in FY2003.

The campaign is having a positive effect. The Air Force’s numbers are decreasing despite rising numbers of people participating in high risk activities.

“But there is still work to do,” said John Phillips, Air Force Chief of Ground Safety. “Exposure to higher risk activities demands increased emphasis on personal risk management.”

101 CDS efforts attempt to increase personal awareness of risk and thereby reduce the number of summer mishaps and fatalities. Traditional efforts include messages by senior leadership, mass briefings by commanders, weekly supervisory briefings and pre-trip, travel and departure briefings, etc. But even more effective is personal, eye-to-eye contact between commanders, supervisors and their Airmen, according to the AFSPC office.

“Many Air Force jobs are high risk, like working around airplanes or other heavy equipment, and being deployed” said Mr. Phillips. “We require them to wear personal protective equipment to minimize and manage the risks (of injury). Nevertheless, some of these same people will turn right around and operate a lawn mower at home wearing flip-flops. People just need to use more common sense.”

“Sadly, we recently had an on-duty fatality where a female Airman was killed in a vehicle accident while not wearing a seatbelt,” he said. “She was thrown from the vehicle and then it rolled over her. This is an accident she should have walked away from if she’d had her seatbelt on.”

Risks for motorcyclists can likewise be mitigated. Air Force Safety has put emphasis on motorcycle safety for many years with safety and instruction courses, and mentorship within riding clubs. Helmets and protective gear is mandatory for military personnel regardless of when or where they ride—regardless of less restrictive state or local laws. But people still make poor decisions while off-duty.

“The Air Force had two motorcycle fatalities (in 2005) where the rider wasn’t wearing a helmet,” said Mr. Phillips. “Just consider—nationally, riders are at a 26 times greater risk on a motorcycle than riding in a four-wheeled automobile.

That does not mean automobiles are safe without protective measures.

“We have recently seen an increase in non-use of seatbelts in government owned vehicles and failure to wear helmets on privately owned motorcycles,” said Mark Pannell, AFSPC Safety. “We feel strongly that wingman taking care of wingman is a large part of the answer.”

“If you see a fellow Airman not wearing a seatbelt or motorcycle helmet, it is your responsibility to speak up,” he said. AFSPC Safety is also asking commanders to nominate their people for the new AFSPC Wingman award to promote their wingman concepts.

“When your co-worker is no longer there, it is too late to speak up,” said Mr. Phillips. “Do not accept unnecessary risk—not for yourself, not for your co-workers, not for your friends.”