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After several aviation mishaps in just a few weeks, the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for aviation, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, mandated that Marine squadrons take an “operational pause” to refocus on safety. This isn’t an unprecedented thing. It is a “safety standdown” by another name. Military organizations in general, and aviation in particular, have been enjoying safety standdowns, both planned and unplanned, for many years.
While undoubtedly well-intentioned, this operational pause, like most others, is window dressing. It is the appearance of doing something in place of actually doing something. This is a common problem when organizations have, well, problems. No one has a good answer for the problem, at least not one anyone wants to hear, so since the organization’s leadership has to look as if it’s doing something, it does something purely for public consumption.
For the uninitiated, a safety standdown, or “safety standaround,” is a strange place where a few hundred Marines, sailors, soldiers, and/or airmen sit around and listen to people talk about “safety.” Sometimes they talk about the actual jobs their audiences perform. In aviation, someone might talk to mechanics about “tool control,” i.e. “don’t leave a wrench in the engine intake.” Pilots might hear from a weather forecaster, telling them that “thunderstorms are scary.”
Other times they’re a little more generalized. Some audiences might get a procession of what I call “The Village People,” but instead of bringing us fabulous disco hits, they bring us stale cliches. A policeman comes in to tell troops to not drink and drive. A fireman tells them to not link a dozen sets of Christmas lights together. A biker tells them to wear protective equipment, perhaps a leather jacket and chaps.
Some commands just use the extra time to knock out all of their annual training requirements. It may say “safety,” but that’s no reason that information security, equal opportunity, and absentee voting can’t get their time to shine.
Some commands even think “outside the box” and have discussion groups to identify shortfalls in their commands and identify best practices. As hard as they try, though, they seldom accomplish more than making eight hours in a room slightly more tolerable.
I have to admit my complicity in all this. When I was in charge of my command’s safety programs, I tried to make my safety standdowns as interesting as possible, with elaborate scenarios in the simulator for the pilots and small group discussions for mechanics, but even I was forced to admit that there’s only so far that one can take the safety standaround format. You can’t spin gold out of straw after all.
The real problem with safety standdowns is not the intent. Senior officers aren’t imposing safety standdowns out of spite. They’re imposing them because they have no idea what else to do.
Some deny the importance of safety training. Safety training is actually just as important as tactical training. By way of example, for our enemies, shooting down a warplane is damn hard. Even a crappy SA-7 costs real money. Waiting for ill-trained aircrews to crash on their own is free. Non-combat casualties still account for a disproportionate share of the fallen, both at home and abroad.
But the real answer lies in more training. Actual training. Not PowerPoints and guest speakers. That's true for tasks both on and off the job. It's realistic combat training as well as things like motorcycle training. More training means more money. That’s something the military is short of. Safety isn’t a class, it’s a habit. Habits are formed by experience, not by a one-day “reset.”
Safety isn’t something one gets from a few hours in an auditorium. It’s the product of hundreds of hours of realistic training. Unless the military can give its people that, all the safety standarounds in the world will only serve to make good press releases.
Army and Air Force Exchange Service officials are warning soldiers and military families to be aware of scammers using the Exchange's logo.
In a news release Wednesday, Exchange officials said scammers using the name "Exchange Inc." have "fooled" soldiers and airmen to broker the sale of used cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats and boat engines.
KABUL (Reuters) - The Islamic State (IS) militant group claimed responsibility on Sunday for a suicide blast at a wedding reception in Afghanistan that killed 63 people, underlining the dangers the country faces even if the Taliban agrees a pact with the United States.
The Saturday night attack came as the Taliban and the United States try to negotiate an agreement on the withdrawal of U.S. forces in exchange for a Taliban commitment on security and peace talks with Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government.
Islamic State fighters, who first appeared in Afghanistan in 2014 and have since made inroads in the east and north, are not involved in the talks. They are battling government and U.S.-led international forces and the Taliban.
The group, in a statement on the messaging website Telegram, claimed responsibility for the attack at a west Kabul wedding hall in a minority Shi'ite neighborhood, saying its bomber had been able to infiltrate the reception and detonate his explosives in the crowd of "infidels".
Calling aviation geeks in New York City: The British are coming.
In their first visit to the United States since 2008, the Royal Air Force "Red Arrows" will perform an aerial demonstration next week over the Hudson River, according to an Air Force news release. F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels demonstration teams will also be part of the show.
Frances and Efrain Santiago, natives of Puerto Rico, wanted to show their support last month for protesters back home seeking to oust the island's governor.
The couple flew the flag of Puerto Rico on the garage of their Kissimmee home. It ticked off the homeowners association.
Someone from the Rolling Hills Estates Homeowners Association left a letter at their home, citing a "flag violation" and warning: "Please rectify the listed violation or you may incur a fine."
Frances Santiago, 38, an Army veteran, demanded to know why.
A West Point graduate received a waiver from the U.S. Army to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday, and play in the NFL while serving as an active-duty soldier.
The waiver for 2nd Lt. Brett Toth was first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter, who said that Toth signed a three-year deal with the Eagles. Toth graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 2018.