Safety: Shaping our culture, not watching it change

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Catharine Schmidt
  • 109th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

When Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein directed all Air Force wings with flying and maintenance functions to conduct an operational safety review, the 109thAirlift Wing’s safety team answered the call and brought about 500 Airmen together to discuss risk management and mitigating mishaps. 


On June 18, Airmen gathered at the Saratoga Hilton in nearby Saratoga Springs to receive insight on risk management and safety trends from the 109thAW safety team as well as guest speaker Doug Downey of Convergent Performance, LLC. Downey, a 24-year Air Force veteran, is recognized as an industry expert in risk management, safety management systems, safety program management and aviation accident and mishap investigations. 


The 109thAW safety team identified safety trends and risk factors while Downey discussed human factors affecting safety along with the importance of compliance. 


Lt. Col. Dean Johnson, the 109thAW Chief of Safety, talked about how every person at the wing, regardless of their job, has a direct effect on the mission.


“Safety and risk management must be practiced from when you get up in the morning to when you get safely back to your bed at night,” he said. “And at any point along that continuum, both professional and personal, [if something] results in a mishap, then the mission fails. It doesn’t matter if you’re security forces or services or a flyer or finance or maintenance or medical -- risk management, assessment, mitigation is applicable to us all.


“Everyone in the wing should be able to say that they operate ski-equipped C-130s when asked what they do at the 109thAirlift Wing,” he said. “When things go wrong in your work group, no matter what your job description is, that has a trickle-down effect on the whole organization and it goes right into the cockpit.”


During the second half of the day, Airmen broke out into different groups to participate in feedback sessions with wing safety representatives about the trends they are seeing not just throughout the wing, but also within the Air Force as a whole. 


“It’s more of a data-pulling event,” said Senior Master Sgt. Rick Rueda, 109thAW Occupational Safety Manager. The breakout sessions were designed to facilitate discussion among Airmen. “What are your concerns as it relates to safety within the organization? Is it a lack of experience in the work center? Is there lack of training? What are the shortfalls in each of the different groups.”


The safety team is currently compiling all the feedback received from Airmen. 


“This will paint a big picture of what our safety culture is across the wing,” Rueda said. “We can then target our leadership goals to (address) those concerns and shortfalls to prevent future mishaps.”


“Our philosophy in the safety office, is that your 109thsafety team is shaping our culture not watching it change,” Johnson said. “That’s our motto, and that’s the motto that we want to impart on the wing. If we have influenced the culture positively, then this will be a net win.”