Embrace the paranoia

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Andre Briere
  • 18th Wing Chief of Safety
For those of us fortunate enough to fly Air Force aircraft as a primary or secondary duty, there is a familiar and common feeling that we tend to get just prior to takeoff. It's characterized by equal measures of excitement, focus, and heightened awareness, with just a bit of paranoia thrown in. That paranoia can be a pilot's best friend and it's saved many aviators from potentially deadly mistakes in the air. 

So what do I mean by paranoia? I'm obviously not describing an abnormal psychological condition. Instead, this paranoia is a healthy compulsion to double and triple check everything in the cockpit. Am I ready to fly? Did I accomplish my checklists properly? Did I get the proper clearances? Am I on time? It's an acknowledgement of the huge trust the Air Force places in us to fly multi-million dollar aircraft safely and get the mission accomplished. Before we advance throttles for takeoff, we'd better be ready for anything the aircraft or the mission might throw at us. 

You should cultivate that same mentality whenever you operate machinery as part of your normal duties or get behind the wheel of a government vehicle. We have experienced a significant increase in GOV mishaps here on Kadena in FY09, and it's time to crush this trend. Because most of us are comfortable operating a privately-owned vehicle, we tend to operate GOVs as if they are just POVs with a blue paint job. Similarly, forklift operations are conducted so frequently that they can come to seem routine. But not too many of us transport munitions, missiles, or other sensitive cargo in our own cars; nor do we operate personal vehicles in close proximity to aircraft or on active runways. The very nature of the Air Force mission makes any GOV or heavy machinery operation potentially hazardous or even deadly. 

Although our last GOV-related fatality occurred in 2003, we've had numerous forklift and GOV safety mishaps due to inattention/complacency at Kadena since October 2008. These reportable and non-reportable mishaps represent an approximate increase of 30 percent over the same period last year. The bottom line is that we've been lucky that none of these incidents resulted in loss of life or major damage to government property. You are the key to stopping this trend in its tracks! 

Resist the complacency that comes with familiarity with a task, piece of machinery, or vehicle. When you turn the key on a GOV, remember that it's not your family car. The Air Force and your chain of command place great trust in you to operate government vehicles safely and properly. Double check everything and make sure your plan of operation is clear and understood to yourself and others involved. Embrace the paranoia!