Holiday weekend presents unique safety challenges

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Joseph Rizzuto
  • 23rd Wing Safety
The July 4th holiday presents all of us with an opportunity to reflect on the independence of this great nation of ours.

This uniquely American holiday should also be a time for us to pause and honor the memory of the founding fathers and the patriots who joined them in their desperate struggle to build a nation based on the principles of freedom and equality. We owe them, and those who followed, everything.

Nevertheless, it is a family time too, filled with travel to the beach, cookouts, and celebrations with neighbors and friends. Unfortunately, these joyous occasions often can mean something quite different for some Air Force members and their families.

Statisticians refer to it as a "killing season" because generally more Air Force members are killed in July than any other month. Many more are also injured; some so severely they will never return to work. As we approach the first weekend in July, the Air Force is not off to a good start.

Over the last few years, the Air Force has experienced between three and four fatalities up to this point during our 101 Critical Days of Summer campaign. Since the start of this year's campaign, the Air Force has already experienced six fatalities.

While Moody and Air Combat Command have not experienced a fatality during this year's campaign, we have not been so lucky in the past. During last year's campaign, Moody experienced one off-duty Class A, two-wheel private motor vehicle mishap, which resulted in a fatality. In addition, we experienced 18 Class C reportable mishaps: two on-duty industrial four-wheel government motor vehicle, two on-duty sports and recreational, eight off-duty sports and recreational, one two-wheel private motor vehicle and four miscellaneous mishaps.

Here at Moody, whether you will be traveling this summer or engaged in recreational activities, there will always be unique hazards. Throngs of travelers choke the highways. Fun-seekers clog the waterways. When you mix alcohol, congestion, fatigue, stress, senseless risk taking, ignoring the rules of the road, and cast aside common sense, the recipe for tragedy is complete.

So what people do to protect themselves and their family? The answer is not only near foolproof, it's simple - control your risks. Sobriety is a wonderful risk control. In past years, alcohol has been a factor in 50 percent of the vehicle mishaps here at Moody.

Also, buckling your seat belts or strapping on a helmet not only protects you from your own mistakes, it also protects you from the stupidity of others. They work remarkably well in saving lives and in preventing or reducing injury. Best of all, using them is a decision entirely within your control. So make the decision to use these risk controls at all times.

Finally, think of yourself as a risk control. Fatigue, aggression and poor planning are all risk multipliers that lead to injury or death. Consider the outcome of your actions. If you think you're doing something that can hurt you or someone else, don't do it.

The ultimate measure of a successful holiday weekend is to come home in at least as good a condition as you left. So control your risks, keep out of harm's way and enjoy yourselves. We need each and every one of you. Wherever you are during our nation's 232nd birthday, have a safe and enjoyable holiday and take pride in knowing that you are a member of the finest Air Force the world had ever known.

Happy Independence Day!