Summer is a critical time for fun, family and safety

  • Published
  • By Col. Vincent DiFronzo
  • 505th CCW commander
The Air Force's annual 101 Critical Days of Summer begins over the Memorial Day weekend. This holiday is typically associated with the beginning of summer fun -- activities such as water skiing, road trips, open-air cruising in convertibles and on motorcycles, golf outings and family cookouts. 

Summer is an important time for families because children are out of school, enabling trips to theme parks and visits to grandparents. Summer is also a significant period for vehicle and boat sales. In fact, the next three months are peak sales months for convertibles, boats and motorcycles. 

Any avid golfer will tell you summer months are also critical for tee times as would-be "Tigers" emerge from hibernation to try and lower their handicaps. In case you were wondering, the top golf months are May and October. While summer is critical for outdoor activities, critical for families and critical for vehicle manufacturers, it's also a critical time for safety awareness. 

Ninety percent of active-duty military accidents occur off duty during the 101 Critical Days of Summer, and the overwhelming majority involve motor vehicles. Summer is the peak period for heat exhaustion, motorcycle accidents, heart attacks and even fatal lightning strikes. 

Our Air Force safety staff is beginning to roll out a multitude of 101 Days activities, all with one goal: to keep safety at the forefront of your May through August plans. While you enjoy the freedom and opportunities warm weather and free time affords, remember to heed the lessons you've been taught during safety days, on motivational posters and in pre-activity briefings. 

Even seemingly "safe" activities can pose significantly more risk during the 101 Critical Days. For example, while swimming on your favorite beach this summer, you'll find yourself surrounded by hundreds of new tourists. Should a riptide or heavy current catch you unaware, a lifeguard's attention is now divided by hundreds of swimmers instead of the usual dozens they're used to watching during spring and fall. Traffic is heavier, temperatures are higher, and most of all, alcohol is more prevalent during summer activities. 

I'm concerned about the loss to the Air Force if you are unable to show up for work. With our downsizing and no let-up in our ops tempo, every Airman is critical. And when one of our own is killed or seriously injured, it has a major impact on the unit. Therefore, it's important to recognize how bad decisions by you can be detrimental to your unit and the Air Force. But my concern is broader than mission impact. I've seen the pain and regret caused by an untrained operator, an un-helmeted rider or a careless and impaired driver. The impact on your family, co-workers and friends is permanent. 

Every Airman is a valuable individual, and my motivation is to ensure each and every one of you returns from summer with a smile, not a scar. 

The 101 Critical Days of Summer should be memorable, fun-filled and safe. I encourage you to take a few extra moments before you embark on family trips or high-risk activities to review the materials provided by your local safety office. Review the pamphlets and presentations handed out on safety day or a 101 Critical Days event. Talk with your staff about safety and reinforce the importance of Operational Risk Management in daily life. 

Better yet, consult your supervisor about your plans before you leave for the weekend. A fresh perspective can do wonders in providing a "sanity check" to your summer plans. 

Look out for one another during these critical days. This summer, everyone has the opportunity to be a wingman!