Safety - Lead or Wingman?

  • Published
  • By Safety Bear
  • 151 ARW/SE
Air Mobility Command says "be your own safety manager." Air Combat Command and National Guard Bureau both emphasize "watch over your wingman." So which is it, watch over yourself or watch over your buddy? I ask these questions because I believe it's essential for everyone to know exactly who or what it is you have to watch.

In thinking about these two different approaches to personal safety, I am reminded of the FAA required flight attendant's pre-departure briefing before every commercial airline departure. You know the one that instructs you on how to operate the 1960s-style seat belt? Yes, that one. The helpful part of this brief instructs you, the airline passenger, in the unlikely event of cabin depressurization, to look for the oxygen masks that will fall from overhead. Pull the mask firmly towards you, place the mask over your head and pull the elastic straps so the cup fits snug over your nose and mouth. (The bag will not inflate). Now the sage advice: If you are traveling with a child ("or someone acting like a child"), secure your own oxygen mask first before assisting the child.

The reason you assist yourself first is very simple: you cannot be helpful if you are passed out. And with no oxygen, it is just a matter of time before you pass out. When you are in an environment with inadequate oxygen supply (like at high altitudes), the amount of time an individual is able to perform efficiently is referred to as the time of useful consciousness (TUC). This time is reduced as altitude increases. For example: at 35,000 feet the TUC is 30 to 60 seconds. A rapid loss of cabin pressure can reduce this time by 50 percent due to forced lung exhalation and rapid rate of pressure altitude ascent. This means that if you have a rapid decompression at a high altitude, you only have seconds to get that life saving oxygen in your lungs to your brain.

I know, I know. You are all saying, "Safety Bear get to the point!"

The point is that you cannot be fight the enemy if you are passed out or hurt. You cannot help your buddy support the Global War on Terror if you are dead. And you certainly can't relish with your family and friends the beautiful sweet freedoms we have at home if you don't take care now.

So Lead or Wingman? The answer is both. Take care of yourself so you can take care of others. It's our duty to stay fit to fight and help our buddies do the same.

During these 101 critical days of summer, I ask that you be careful out there and watch out for one another.

Safety out. Beep.

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