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Having a safe summer

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Randall Honke
  • 48th Aerial Port Squadron
The upcoming Memorial Day weekend is the beginning of the 101 critical days of summer campaign, which runs through Labor Day. 

Historically, this period has seen an increase in the number of fatalities associated with sports, recreation and motor vehicle travel. 

Last summer was the safest in the last decade for the Air Force, with 16 fatalities. This is down from a previous low of 17 deaths in 2007. The average for the last decade was 24 deaths during the summer. 

So, the awareness campaign is working, but any loss of life is too many. Whether traveling at excessive speeds, driving while fatigued, failing to fasten seatbelts, drinking then driving, or not using personal flotation devices, the sad news is that all of these mishaps were preventable. 

The summer season is known for graduations, vacations, more recreational activities and weddings. The longer days provide the opportunity to enjoy more recreational activities during the day, but the increase in temperature makes it a necessity to keep hydrated. The longer summer days also allow us to spend more time at the beach and enjoy the ocean. 

Death by drowning is of tremendous concern in both Hawaii and Guam. When enjoying the beach, it is important to assess the risks, be aware of the conditions and respect the ocean. 

Graduations, weddings and other celebratory events often go hand in hand with the consumption of alcohol. Drink responsibly. Drinking and driving don't mix; so if you drink, don't drive. I know that this may sound like the same old rhetoric, but statistics show that more Air Force personnel will suffer injuries and deaths from motor vehicle accidents than from combat. At both Andersen and Hickam Air Force Bases, Airmen Against Drunk Driving will give military identification card holders, including dependents, a ride home if they are intoxicated and cannot drive on Friday and Saturday evenings from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. 

We all have to make choices, the key to the 101 critical days of summer campaign is that we make responsible choices and use sound judgment when making these choices. It is taking operational risk management to our daily lives. Issues such as responsibility, common sense and the proper respect for conditions must be considered. 

Lastly, we must look out for our fellow Airman by being a good wingman. If your buddy has had too much to drink, by all means, don't let him or her get behind the wheel. Also, look out for whether your fellow Airmen or those around you exhibit reckless or dangerous behavior. 

Our nation's economic crisis has added additional stress to the lives of most Americans; behavioral changes may be a cry for help. 

As General Stenner stated in his e-mail to all Air Force Reserve Command members, "Know the indicators of a potential suicide and be involved. It is equally important that every member realize that it is fully acceptable and appropriate to seek professional help." 

The wingman culture has played a key role in the improvement in the 101 critical days of summer program. By being responsible, using common sense, making sound decisions and looking out for our fellow Airmen, we can enjoy our summer without losing any of our Airmen or family members.