Back to the Basics

  • Published
  • By Col. Anthony Johnson
  • 117th Maintenance Group

When I played football in high school our head coach always wanted to focus on the basics of blocking and tackling early in the week, leading up to the game on Friday night.  He knew that we could never be our best or be able to execute the game plan that we wanted to unless we first focused on the basics.  

Gen. Rice, the Director of the Air National Guard, recently sent out a letter to all of the Adjutant Generals. It asked us to improve the maintenance culture across the Air National Guard by getting back to the basics to enhance safety for our airmen and our equipment.  Getting back to the basics for maintenance primarily includes forms documentation, technical order compliance, and tool control.  For you and your shop, it may be something totally different.

According to Col. Allison Miller, the Director of Safety for the Air National Guard, in fiscal year 2016 the ANG flew 290,630 flying hours. That’s a lot of flying hours in which, most of the time, things went well. However, according to Miller, during the same time frame there was an average of five mishaps per day resulting in the loss of four airmen in duty mishaps, 3,539 lost workdays, and a total cost of $1.4 billion in ANG assets lost. Miller is currently promoting a proactive safety culture with the goal of eliminating, or at least mitigating these types of losses.

Rice and Miller both know that our mission is never without risk, whether in maintenance or any other area.  Instead, they want to minimize and eliminate unnecessary hazards to our Airmen.  So whether you turn a wrench in maintenance, pull a fuel hose on the flight line, drive a truck in the motor pool, or whatever your job entails, we can always be intentional about improving the safety culture at our base.

It seems to me that the most common back to basics approach for everyone to consider that will improve our safety culture is to consistently empower our airmen to be proactive about safety instead of being reactive.  The phrase “If you see something, say something” applies to every work environment.  We should teach our airmen to speak up if they see something that doesn’t look right, something that could injure our airman or cause damage to our equipment.  Also, when our airmen do speak up about something that they think looks wrong, we should always support them even if it is determined to be a false alarm.

Going back to the basics to improve our safety culture may mean something totally different for each of us, but the one thing we all can do is to empower our airmen to speak up if they see something that doesn’t look right.  We should always be proactive about safety and not reactive.  Let’s change our safety culture by getting back to the basics!