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ORM essential on, off duty

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Philip Cooper
  • 37th Helicopter Squadron commander
In the nuclear enterprise we belong to, a great deal of trust and responsibility requires every Airman to make comprehensive operational risk management decisions both on and off duty. Managing risk at appropriate levels should be something each of us approaches with true and realistic concern for our personal safety as well as for those around us. I have conducted safety investigations both at home station and deployed in combat. I have seen risk managed well with a realistic eye for distinguishing risk with realistic mitigation, and I have seen the broad- paintbrush approach that fails to identify true risks and therefore fails to provide useful mitigation.

My goal as a squadron commander is to provide a tangible outlook on risk so that the members of my squadron know that I take safety seriously. Safety must never be just a checked box on another topic commanders are supposed to cover. A culture of safety and good decision-making that extends past the workday and into the off time of every Airman must occur throughout the nuclear enterprise. Far too many Airmen check their ORM at the door on their way home for the night or weekend. I'm sure each of you have witnessed this happen and questioned how someone can live such a compartmentalized life with regard to safety; a person can make great decisions while on the clock, and seem to forget proper ORM practices in their personal life.

The compartmentalization of safety practices is a hard thing to break by wing, group, and squadron commanders or first shirts and operations superintendents alone. It must come from a unit culture, fostered by leaders at all levels, from junior enlisted members to senior company grade officers. The best time to develop this culture is during off-time activities where two or more unit members are participating. Whether it is softball or snow skiing, wingmen need only to remind one another to think about safety or simply demonstrate it in their actions such as wearing proper protective gear or limiting the intensity level of their performance.

Our nuclear enterprise must ensure our nation and its allies of world-class surety, security, and deterrence not simply by possessing the world's most powerful weapons, but by having world-class Airmen who operate, maintain, and support the world's most powerful weapons. Our Airmen must work hard, play hard, and return to work each day able to function at full capacity, and this happens only through Airmen who practice good ORM on and off duty.

Stay safe and foster a unit culture of safety 24/7.