CC: Step up, be a great wingman; help save a life

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- This past Tuesday, we lost one of our own. It is never easy to lose a fellow Airman, a friend, or even worse, a family member. A family lost their son, a sister lost her brother and a squadron lost a warrior. For all of us here at the 30th Space Wing, we lost someone we worked with, someone we depended on and someone we cared about. There was a wound caused by this death that will leave a scar with all of us. 

What made this accident so tragic was that it involved the devastating loss of an Airman that was so young and so full of potential. The 30th Civil Engineer Squadron and the entire Vandenberg community will mourn this loss. Our resolve is to learn how to be better Wingmen because we now are witnesses to yet another reminder of just how fragile life is and the extraordinary measures we need to take in order to protect it. 

I realize that not all accidents are preventable. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you can't stop the inevitable from happening. What you can do, however, is look back and think about what you could've done differently, what you could've done better, and what you could've done, in this case, to save a life. I wish I could tell you that all the Commander's Calls, one-on-one safety briefings, commentaries and e-mails in the world would do the job; that they would save every life and prevent all accidents. The truth is, they don't. We'll never really know how many tragic accidents we prevent through relentless, aggressive and proactive safety messages. What we do know, however, is that every little bit helps and if we can stop just one person from making a poor decision or taking an unnecessary chance, then everything we do each and every day in the name of safety here at the 30th Space Wing is worth it. 

I will never let up until I am 100% confident that each and every Airman assigned to Vandenberg AFB is armed with the knowledge to make good decisions and to respect life with the attention to detail, patience and sense that it deserves. That day will only come if all of us pull together as a team, as a family and as a wing, and pledge to look out for each other on and off the job. I cannot emphasize this point enough. It's easy to tell someone that he or she is doing a great job, living a great life and is absolutely perfect in every way. Conversely, it's extremely difficult to tell someone that he or she is wrong, is dangerous or will die if things don't change. Only the best friends tell it like it is and I wish there were more "best friends" here at Vandenberg than there appears to be.
The Wingman Program exists because Air Force leadership understands how lonely assignments can be and how removed many of us are from our families and friends. That's why it's so important to have someone here at Vandenberg that you can turn to that will be there for you. If you're doing things alone or know someone who is doing things alone, you need to do something about it right now. Call me, call the chaplain's office, call someone. Don't turn your head and let a fellow Airman go through life alone. 

Everyone feels pain right now. Take the pain and the grief and turn it into something you can do to protect yourself and each other. Think about how you drive, how you ride your motorcycle or bike, how you play sports, how you protect your home, how you perform your job; anything you can do to prevent a disaster. Here's one that is all too common: wear reflective clothing while exercising outside. The 30th Space Wing Instruction mandates that joggers, fitness walkers, etc. who run on roadways shall wear brightly colored or highly contrasting outer garments during the day and reflective material during dark hours or when visibility is limited due to weather. The rule exists because of the near zero visibility in the mornings and evenings and the simple fact that drivers cannot see you. Too many people just don't care and dress simply based on personal comfort. If you're one of them, change your behavior starting now. If you see someone or know someone, change their behavior starting now as well. 

We simply cannot afford the senseless loss of another life. It's never too late to make a lifestyle change for yourself or to recommend a lifestyle change to someone else. You never know whose life you will save; it may just be your own.