Safety, compliance go hand-in-hand

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. John Duda
  • 21st Space Wing Safety Office
When my children were younger, one of their favorite books was "The Bear Scouts" by Stan and Jan Berenstain. We would always discuss how Papa Bear could have avoided all the accidents he has throughout the story if he would follow the Bear Scout Guide. Every time Papa Bear ignored his son's advice taken from the scout guide, he would find himself in a precarious situation requiring rescue by the Bear Scouts, causing them to divert resources and time in their journey to save him. What do the Berenstain Bears have to do with the warrior Knights of the 21st Space Wing?

In the military, especially in the 21st SW, we are expected to comply with tactics, techniques and procedures, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, technical orders, the Law of Armed Conflict, instructions and lawful orders. To not do so places us, our mission and potentially countless lives and a great deal of money at the highest risk. As Airmen and warriors, we like to push the envelope, but we try to stay within the laws of physics, and within the guidance we have available.

If the guidance or TTPs are inadequate, we diligently work with our professional team to develop better ways of doing business. The new procedures should improve our chances for mission success and permit us to utilize resources appropriately, not divert them for buffoonery.

What about our personal lives? Every mechanical or electronic component in our home came with a set of operating instructions. Are we following them? Are we the wise old Papa Bear who takes shortcuts and does things his own way -- at maximum risk to himself and others - or do we follow the Bear Scout Guide?

In the critical days of summer, and all year round, you are the most important asset we have. You comply with guidance in your military duties, so why not comply with operating instructions for the equipment you own or use at home? Most mishaps occurring recreationally or on duty are because an individual did not comply with the instructions or TTPs available to the user/operator. In our zest to push the envelope, we probably should know what the envelope is as a first step -- the operating instructions give that very guidance.

At the end of the story, Papa Bear realizes the guide is helpful when the scouts use it to treat him for injuries and build a litter to carry him home. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to use better judgment in the first place. The lessons we impart should be by our good example, not our follies due to noncompliance with sound practices.

While "The Bear Scouts" gives a humorous tale for children to learn to comply with guidance, our choice to not comply could be disastrous. Our Air Force cannot afford to lose our most valuable assets because we refuse to comply with a "silly old book." The cost in diversion of resources, distribution of workload for lost time, and potential catastrophic failure or death are too steep a price to pay to save a few seconds. Our office can assist you in complying with the guide so you don't risk your ability to accomplish the mission without needing rescue from other scouts.