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4th SOS wins Colombian Trophy

Aerial gunners from the 4th Special Operations Squadron, load a 105 mm Howitzer cannon aboard an AC-130U gunship.

Aerial gunners from the 4th Special Operations Squadron, load a 105 mm Howitzer cannon aboard an AC-130U gunship.

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- The 4th Special Operations Squadron was awarded the Colombian Trophy for military flight safety achievements by a single unit for 2005.

The award, started in 1935 by the Republic of Colombia, is given to the Air Force General Headquarters group that has the lowest mishap rate in a year.

“The people of the 4th SOS are the finest in the world,” said Lt. Col. Robert Monroe, 4th SOS commander. “It was a well-deserved award, earned by the hard work of the people here.”
The 4th SOS is the second-most deployed squadron in the Air Force, flying more than 8,000 mishap-free hours in 2005, with more than 5,000 of those hours in combat. All this was done without a single Class A or Class B mishap.

A Class A mishap is property damage over $1 million dollars and/or loss of life. A Class B mishap constitutes property damage of $200,000 or higher and/or permanent or partial disability.

“We flew more combat hours than we were allotted for the year,” said Colonel Monroe. “Routinely, these were 10 hour missions, in a hostile environment within range of enemy fire.”

Selection criteria considered for this award include unusual hazards, technical order changes, development of safety education and publicity material, safety program management, operational readiness and outstanding accomplishments.

One of the squadron’s programs that helped garner the award is the 4th SOS Operational Risk Management program.

“We look at different areas of risks and track them on a matrix,” said Tech. Sgt. John Conley, 4th SOS safety office. “There are five main areas we cover and then do a total assessment for each mission.”

The five areas of the risk assessment sheet are broken down into low–risk, medium-risk and high-risk possibilities, and then each area is rated based on the criteria listed. The scores are totaled and an overall assessment of the mission is given.

“As the night goes on, the mission changes,” said Maj. Shawn Brady, 4th SOS chief of safety. “We just keep re-assessing what risks are involved and adjust accordingly.

The stress level is high so we look at the risk and then what we’re going to do about it.”

Should a new mission arise while in flight, the men and women of the 13-person crew do an immediate review based on the incoming information. Relying on constant training while home, they’re able to make quick, safe decisions.

“We teach them how to react when new things come up,” said Colonel Monroe. “Everyone in this squadron is encouraged to build a better mouse trap – that’s what safety is all about.”

Training at the 19th SOS helps to keep the troops sharp. Using all 500 hours allotted to the squadron in the AC-130U simulator, the 4th SOS puts Airmen in different scenarios possible in combat.

Feedback from the crews, both air and ground, is highly encouraged by the squadron commander and is shared with the rest of the squadron.

“We try to look at all the factors that could happen when we’re flying,” said Major Brady. “Was there maintenance just done? What weather is moving in? What’s the terrain like?

These and other questions are what we consider before we ever leave the ground.”

Whether home or deployed, the 4th SOS proved they could meet any challenges given to them – keeping their crews and equipment safe.