Monday, July 16, 2012

Semper Fi – Safety learnings from our times in military service

One of my longtime friends and blog follower, Phil Skinner, sent me the following:

I have heard that when you are taught something it is your duty to teach it to another. In the Marines, our entire wing would take one day off from flying each quarter to conduct what is called a safety stand down. Or, as this naïve lieutenant would say: safety stand around. (Really, a whole day without flying?) During these stand downs, every pilot, crew chief and 1st mech. would talk through close calls in the hopes that others would learn and thereby avoid similar dangerous events. 

The talks were not limited to aviation. One crusty old staff sergeant from the admin section of the squadron recalled hanging off the gutters of his house when the ladder slipped out from under him. He had overextended himself while painting. A former locomotive engineer civilian graphically described the dangers of railroad crossings.

Well, of course my first thought on these events was along the lines of, “That will never happen to me; I am not THAT stupid,” or “Wow, I could never be THAT unlucky”. These were my exact thoughts as a colonel described his close call with a compressor stall at night over an area with no place to land his CH-46 helicopter. The actions he took were ‘innovative.’  However, his quick thinking not only saved the aircraft, but also his life and those of his crew.

Nearly a year later, I was the one who was flying at night over wooded mountainous terrain and started hearing a series of loud ‘pops.’ Right then I knew the plane was going to be coming out of the sky, safely or not. Was I ever glad I had paid attention during that ‘stand around.’ If not, I wouldn’t be writing this account of my own close call.

At the next safety stand down, my attitude changed to “Maybe others will be alive as a result of hearing about my close call.”  That day, I learned teachers affect eternity; they can never tell where their influence stops.

Thank you, Phil, for sharing this. To the reading audience; why not consider a close call session with your crews?

The Doc

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