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USAFE Safety picks up Air Force-level accolades

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (USAFENS) -- The U.S. Air Forces in Europe safety program and one individual within the command received accolades recently, picking up Air Force-level safety awards.

For a second consecutive year, The Secretary of the Air Force Safety Award was awarded to the Headquarters USAFE safety office for having the most effective overall safety program within a major command, direct reporting unit or field operating agency across the Air Force.

Individually, Tech. Sgt. George Vara Jr., 435th Air Base Wing weapons safety manager, received the Air Force Nuclear Surety Outstanding Achievement Award.

Putting ‘safety first’, the command implemented Project SMART, a new Combat and Special Interest Program in 2004, said Colonel Walter Scales, USAFE Safety director. Project SMART, which stands for Smartly Managing Awareness, Risk and Threats, placed increased emphasis on operational risk management while challenging people individually to work both smarter and safer.

“The most important attribute of Project SMART is to raise the awareness of all of our members to the dangers they face in their daily lives, whether it is at work or at home,” said the colonel. “With the monthly Project SMART themes continually raising safety awareness, our USAFE warriors can focus on using ORM on the most likely dangers they will face during the year.”

In addition to Project SMART becoming a benchmark for other Air Force major commands, USAFE also reported zero Class A flight and weapons mishaps during Fiscal 2004; representing the lowest mishap rate of any other MAJCOM.

“Our zero mishap rate in safety speaks volumes about our troops dedication to doing things right,” said Colonel Scales. “We have had no Class A flight mishaps in two years, and have not had a Class A weapons mishap since 1992. I am extremely proud, and all the members of USAFE should be proud as well.”

It’s this type of emphasis on safety and ORM that allowed USAFE and Sergeant Vara to come out on top, said Gen. Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong, USAFE commander.

“Risk management cannot be compartmentalized to the workplace, and it has to be more than an afterthought,” said General Foglesong. “It’s about protecting our most valuable resource in USAFE – our people. The Air Force recognizes the achievements made by our USAFE safety office and by Sergeant Vara, validating that we’re fully engaged on emphasizing safety in this theater.

“Our command is not throwing risk management into a box and pulling it out only when it’s needed to consider ‘critical’ tasks in the workplace,” the general continued. “I couldn’t be more proud of our safety offices and our entire USAFE team. When it comes to risk management, it takes the whole team to integrate a responsible way of thinking, and these awards show that’s what we’ve done.”

Applying sound ORM principles and working smartly are also skills that catapulted Sergeant Vara to the front of the pack, allowing him to pick up his Air Force-level award.

During the course of the year, Sergeant Vara conducted 93 key nuclear surety inspections on 13 wing and MAJCOM-level organizations within the command. Lauded by the MAJCOM inspector general Nuclear Surety Inspection team, his excellent knowledge and continued focus on safety made him a catalyst for success in the 435th Air Base Wing surety mission, and was instrumental in the wing receiving an excellent rating during its Nuclear Surety Inspection.

Ensuring the mission is accomplished safely is more than a job, said Sergeant Vara.

“This is an exciting accomplishment for me, especially since being a weapons safety manager is something I really enjoy,” he said. The most important aspect of my job is knowing the mission can continue and that hazards can be mitigated -- ensuring a safe operation from beginning to end.”

But mission accomplishment doesn’t happen without teamwork, said Colonel Scales.

“Winning these awards is a tribute to all of the members of USAFE; it’s a team effort,” the colonel said. “Safety is everyone’s business, and the members of this command have shown they understand the importance of doing the mission safely and effectively.

“All of us understand that one Airman lost in a mishap is not only a personal loss for the member’s family and friends, but it is a capability loss for the unit,” the colonel continued. “USAFE Airmen are keenly aware of this and have made great strides in taking care of each other and their equipment. I challenge all of our USAFE warriors to continue to make safety a part of everything they do, and keep up the great work.”