Safety is paramount

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The Air Force spends thousands upon thousands of hours training and developing Airmen leaders. The initial phase takes place in Basic Military Training or our commissioning sources, and closes out with the final phase upon separation or retirement. The number one principle the Air Force requires of each and every Airman is accountability.

This principle is woven throughout our Core Values, Warrior Ethos and daily duties. As Airmen we are required to adhere to the Core Values: Integrity First, Excellence in all we Do and Service before Self, not to mention our responsibilities of upholding the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Air Force Instructions, legal orders of the officers appointed over us and defending the Constitution of the United States. We are also responsible for ensuring the intangibles such as safety, risk management and causality notification training.

The importance of safety at the work place can't be overstated. This is primarily felt in our immediate office space where we are subjected to numerous potential risks during our daily operations. Adhering to safety measures and risk management initiatives ensures the safety of our fellow Airmen and their family members.

When it's the season to decorate for the holidays, you work hard to create just the right mood. Whether you like the soft glow from candles, flames crackling in the fireplace, twinkling lights, a tall tree loaded with ornaments, or if you're planning parties and family get-togethers to celebrate the joy of the season, don't forget to make plans that include safety through the festivities. The Air Force has an annual requirement for us to maintain our proficiency in safety and causality notification, and as a commander, I would like nothing more than to use the tools we have been given in one in order to prevent the need of having to use the tools of the latter.

We are rapidly approaching the holidays where many of us are in a constant state of rush, stress and pressure. More often than not, these actions have a tendency to result in mishaps. We need to do is remember our training and safety briefings reminding us to build our plans and then look at any and all factors which could impede our success. Each one of us is trained in identifying and implementing the necessary steps to be adopted in case of an emergency or mishap. This time of year the impediments range from stress to weather to the complete unexpected.

Here are some things to look out for and remember to plan around: Mistletoe, holly, poinsettias, Jerusalem cherry plants and other plants are commonly used as decorations during the holidays. Like many plants, these are considered potentially poisonous and should be kept out of the reach of children and young adults who are hungry.

Alcohol poisoning is a common risk for young adults during the holiday season. Many people host holiday parties where alcohol is served, but if we are under 21, we need to remember our integrity and refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages. For those of us 21 or older, remember to drink responsibly and never drive after we have been drinking.

The holiday rush can make even the most cautious driver feel extremely stressed with all of the parties, shopping to find that right gift and going to school programs or activities. While we are out on the road, we need to be extra patient with others and our surroundings. Always keep an eye open for pedestrians who may not be utilizing the proper walk ways. Try and remain focused on the task at hand and not the cell phone, text messages or even trying to down a hamburger to keep your energy level high so you can do more shopping. Most importantly, remember to take some time to just sit down and relax, letting some of that stress fall off of your shoulders.

Remember, the Air Force ingrains our Core Values, standards and training into us with the understanding that we will capitalize upon their importance for a lifetime. When we develop our plans for the holidays, we should be sure to utilize risk management training and plan on possible contingencies or changes affecting our success. Take a break and reward yourself with some time to relax and de-stress. As a commander I can tell you the importance of safety, training and risk management is paramount in all we do in order to prevent mishaps and fatalities. I can tell you the hardest thing I have ever had to do as a commander was stand in front of two grieving parents while trying to utter, "On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful nation, this flag is presented as a token for your loved one's faithful and honorable service."