War on Terrorism

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Deployment preparation starts now

by Gary S. Rudman
U.S. Air Forces Central, Safety Deputy Director


1/30/2013 - SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- It's Thursday at 1615. The squadron just received a short-notice tasking for a safety professional to deploy to an air expeditionary wing in Afghanistan. The reporting date is in 18 days.

How could this happen? Who do I contact? How can I prepare? Tick tock, tick tock ...

How could this happen? Reclamas. While the reclama rate for safety professionals has improved significantly, there is much more we can do. The Air Force uses the Air Expeditionary Force Reporting Tool (ART) to assign safety professionals to varied positions at deployed bases. However, the data in ART isn't always accurate. It's not uncommon to have a member described as "green" or good-to-go for a deployment only to find out that the member is in 5-level upgrade training or on a medical- limiting profile. So, how can accurate information be communicated to ensure there isn't a safety reclama? Leadership involvement ensures the most current information is available and reduces the possibility of someone getting a short-notice deployment.

The clock is still ticking. When will my currencies expire? What about my check ride? Is my ancillary training up to date? As soon as the short-notice tasking is received, the member enters "go mode". There's a lot to do and learn, with little time to accomplish the required training.

Preparation is key. A call to the U.S. Air Forces Central Safety Office can help make your short preparation time effective. The office manages air expeditionary wing and group safety programs spread across 15,000 nautical miles in support of 22,000 people and more than $900 billion in assets. Through an eyes-on focus at all AEWs and AEGs, the USAFCENT safety team can guide the deploying member in preparation for a successful deployment.

Next? Training ... what courses are needed and is there time to get them? If you haven't already attended the Board President's Course, you probably will not have time for a TDY now. Bottom line: Don't wait for a deployment tasking to schedule training. Determine what safety training you'll benefit from now; talk with your wing safety office and schedule training now.

Now, visit public health to ensure your immunizations are current. Read the USAFCENT Supplement to Air Force Pamphlet 91-202, The U.S. Air Force Mishap Prevention Program, located on the Air Force Safety Center's publications page, and Air Force Pamphlet 91-216, USAF Safety Deployment and Contingency Pamphlet. Obtain mobility gear and get current in your primary weapon. Finally, if you're the home station chief of safety, make sure there's a plan to keep the office running smoothly while you're deployed. Remember, there are no backfills for the home station safety office.

Fast forward 18 days. The Boeing 767 is nearing touchdown at your deployed location. What is my game plan? What should I do first? First thing ... go everywhere, see everything and meet everybody. Every AEW and AEG has an end-of-tour report. Use that for your starting point to glean strengths, weaknesses, and areas that need improvement. Realize you can't fix everything during your tour, but you might be able to complete a few selected items.

Schedule an appointment with the AEW or AEG commander to discuss critical items like commander priorities and battle rhythm. Talk about the mishap response plan. Don't assume all mishaps will be aviation-related. Determine if you'll be able to fly and at what frequency.

Work with civil engineering readiness to develop a major accident response exercise (MARE). A real-world incident is often the first time a new staff has to work together. A MARE allows key leadership to know and understand others' roles to ensure success.

The fire hose is now in full effect. How long is a typical workday? Be prepared for longer hours than a typical workday at home station. Where is my office? The answer is 'everywhere'. You can't execute a wing safety program from only a computer. Remember ... go everywhere, see everything, meet everybody. Find out what's different ... fire danger, infrastructure, flightline driving issues, explosives storage, confined space programs. How much risk is accepted? What risks are still out there? How can I deep dive to mitigate future risks?

Consider the aviation mishaps from a single deployed rotation at one AEW - nine Class A's and nine Class B's. Those are the big ones. Don't forget 25 Class C's and countless Hazardous Air Traffic Reports (HATR) and Bird-Wildlife Strike Hazard (BASH) reports. And, there are no more than two flight safety officers at an air expeditionary wing to investigate the HATR/BASH incidents.

What about interim safety boards? Imagine an aircraft just landed gear-up on your single runway. How long will it take to get the runway open? What will the interim safety board (ISB) need to do to preserve evidence? How long will it take to select a permanent safety investigation board (SIB) and when will those members arrive? It may take a week or more for the SIB to arrive, so be prepared to take control. What are the critical factors? In this case, it's single-runway operations. When can we resume operations? When will we move the aircraft? Are airbags available? Is there a crane? Is this reflected in the wing's mishap response plan? Tick ... tock ...

What is your safety discipline? Ground safety? Do you know flight and weapons? If the answer is "No", it's time to learn! Are you a flight safety officer? Can you speak Weapons 101? Do you know these acronyms: IBD, PTR and IMD? Have you looked at a weapons site plan? What if you need to present this critical information to the commander? You could very well be the chief of safety. You're expected to know.

Get ready ... NOW! The better you're educated, the better you will perform in the deployed environment. Don't wait for the tasking.

Contact the USAFCENT Safety Office at 803-895-3179, DSN 965-3179, or by email at: 9afse.orgbox@afcent.af.mil), for an overview of deployed safety position duties and contact information for deployed base safety offices

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