Year of Leadership: The overlooked force multiplier

  • Published
  • By Col John W. Probst
  • 341st Security Forces Group commander
Whether it is a mission in the AOR going outside the wire, or a daily trip to the missile complex for site checks, we each have numerous checklists, instructions, guidance and orders that ensure our preparations are complete and thorough.

For example, prior to assuming a post, Security Forces members will have conducted function checks on all their weapons at the armory issue window; turned on all their electronic gear to confirm the batteries are fresh and working; opened all their cases and bags to ensure their needed gear is present; and, they will have adjusted all vests, weapon slings, helmet and carrier straps for a solid, firm fit.

Whatever you call these steps in your specialty ... "pre-departure checks," "guardmount" or "equipment inspections" ... all are designed to make sure we are ready to do our best to maintain the extreme standards for extreme weapons in an extreme environment . They are force multipliers that set us up for mission success.

But sadly, the most often overlooked force multiplier that can help us ensure mission success is also where we take shorts cuts ... safety practices. We can have all the tools and equipment properly packed and loaded, but if we cannot safely get to the fight or task because we failed to use a spotter and wrecked the vehicle ... well, we have failed the mission. Each of us receives what seems to be hundreds of safety briefings every year, on topics from motorcycle and swimming safety to weapons and biological or chemical agent safety. The sheer number of safety briefings can carelessly cause us to tune out valuable information and warnings.

Safety planning factors should be incorporated at every phase of mission planning and we must constantly fight the tendency to allow safety briefings to end up sounding like the rapid-fire warning sometimes delivered at the end of a car commercial. After you complete your next safety briefing, stop and ask those you have just briefed a few follow-on questions to get them thinking about the safety issues. Have them explain to you how the current practices work and keep them safe. Ask them to suggest what additional efforts or practices could be employed to improve your operational safety.

Following an accident, Wing Safety digs in deeply to research facts surrounding the accident and to determine the primary and secondary causal factors of the accident. Just like the lessons learned from a field exercise or real world events, we must incorporate those safety lessons learned into our safety briefings. This helps keep safety briefings relevant and meaningful to our daily operations. Since the three missile wings share cross-tell, we have the ability to draw on more than just Malmstrom events. Don't forget the hundreds of incidents reported across the Air Force and DoD that can also be used to update a safety briefing or practice.

Safety should also be a primary planning factor for your off-duty adventures, too. Buying or renting the right sports equipment, making sure the equipment is well maintained and having the proper training, all increase your chances of coming home with great stories and photos, and fewer injuries. When planning a vacation or long distance trip, make checking your spare and vehicle safety gear the first check rather than an afterthought that strikes 100 miles down the road ... just minutes before that flat tire!

The bottom line -- all of us have a duty to get engaged in making safety a routine force multiplier and to ensure we employ safety as the first tool in successful mission planning.