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Safety as a mindset: Don't let good friends override good judgment

  • Published
  • By Stephen Hildenbrandt
  • AFMC Safety Office
Spring has arrived, and many of you are rolling out your two-wheeled freedom machines, looking for opportune days to experience the thrill of the open road without a cage of steel, glass and plastic. Spring also marks a time when too many of our comrades crash and burn their two-wheeled freedom machines and produce what we refer to as the Spring Spike, a significant uptick in motorcycle mishaps in the springtime, especially in April.

Many of us are familiar with the Wingman concept, which the Air Force has taken beyond the realm of "slipping the surely bonds of earth" and extended to promote looking out for our co-workers, friends and family; getting involved with their lives; and actively ensuring their well-being.

Contemplating the potential mishaps for the upcoming Spring Spike and the role each of us plays as someone's Wingman brings to mind a loss Air Force Materiel Command experienced at the close of last summer - a needless fatality that could have been prevented by adherence to published directives, compliance with commander's policy, a modicum of risk management and a better approach to the Wingman concept.

The directives are clear; military members are not to ride without documented training. Commander's policy is generally equally clear and articulated though various avenues to the riding membership in a given unit. Risk management and being a good Wingman come into play when a good friend suggests something like, "Hey, let me check out your really awesome ride!" Risk management principles should dictate asking, "What's the worst that could happen?" That question should be followed by, "What do I need to do to ensure the worst does not happen?" The Wingman concept carries that further by getting personal with a demonstrated willingness to say, "I haven't seen you at any of the riding or mentorship club meetings; I didn't know you rode. What training and experience have you had? May I see your Motorcycle Safety Foundation card?" Are you willing to risk the continuation of your friendship by presuming your good friend knows how to handle your two-wheeled rocket? Don't let your friendship cloud your good judgment.

We continually see situations where a Wingman had an opportunity to step in and interject a pause, a question or a bit of advice that could have prevented a needless mishap. Don't let yourself be one that allowed a mishap to occur because you didn't want to say "No," "Stop," "Pull over," "Slow down," "Buckle up," "Put your helmet on," "Give me your keys," "Are you trained to do that?" or "That's not in the technical order" to your friend, your Wingman, your co-worker, your supervisor!