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July 4 is time for family, fun, safety

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The Forth of July is very special to me, when my family and I join the rest of the nation in celebration of the freedoms we hold so dear. As people who dedicate our lives to protecting those freedoms, we share a sense of how important our responsibility is to keeping our country safe--for us and for our families.

That responsibility is not easy. We have a huge task. To maintain the tradition of excellence in the performance of our missions of launch, range, and expeditionary operations is our greatest responsibility, since the nation depends on our readiness to answer the call. Just as we need to maximize safe operations both at work and at home for our nation, we owe it to our families too.

Last week, our worst fears were nearly realized when a fire burned about a dozen acres near family housing. Thankfully, no one was hurt. But with the dry weather leaving the land highly flammable, traditional Fourth of July family activities like barbecues and campfires carry potential to create a catastrophe. During the summer months, every decision must be made with safety in mind. Consideration with an operational risk assessment could make the difference between revelry and calamity.

Whether at play or on the job, there are simply no excuses for dangerous behavior that results in injury or death. Accidents and mishaps are an ineffective use of resources at the very least. At the worst, they can be a tragedy that negatively impacts people's lives and mission effectiveness. It's our obligation to be safe so we can maintain the people and resources necessary to accomplish the mission.

Our mission requires safety at all times. We can't do our mission if our people are hurt. The poor decision to ride a motorcycle without proper safety gear, or to ignore the signs of fire danger may result in a lost life or lost days. We need to be ready to perform our mission at home, and ready to deploy. Your family is the AF, the 30th Space Wing, your unit, and your home, and you owe them your safety.

Likewise, lighting a fire under a 250-ton canister full of rocket fuel is not a task to be taken lightly. Launching a rocket to orbit involves a fair share of danger, but lives downrange depend on our mission success. We depend on the full spectrum of our infrastructure to make it happen. We can't do our mission if our equipment is wrecked or if our support organizations are not at the ready. We are at the most important base in the nation with respect to securing and advancing space power for the U.S., and so we need to conduct our mission safely.

I do not want to make any phone calls to spouses, dads and moms of work related deaths. Stay safe and make good choices and you'll have three things when you leave the Air Force--your work, your family and your health.