JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii –
Military aviation is an inherently dangerous undertaking -- in every aspect, there's a chance something can go wrong, be broken, or worse, someone can get hurt.
The U.S. Air Force dedicates entire career tracks to researching, measuring, evaluating and, most importantly, preventing safety mishaps. Airmen in these careers live and breathe aviation safety, immersing themselves so completely they provide a huge amount of expertise to those attending the Asia-Pacific Aviation Safety Subject-Matter Expert Exchange hosted by Pacific Air Forces Aug. 25 to 27.
"The whole purpose of this exchange is to bring everyone together, giving us the opportunity to share what we know about aviation safety," said Maj. Cherie Clark, PACAF flight safety officer.
That opportunity includes safety experts from PACAF, as well as 13 other nations.
"Safe aviation throughout the Asia-Pacific region is a top priority for all of us," Clark said. "Cooperation is a big part of what we do in PACAF, and it's only natural we collectively consider how to work together to safely accomplish the mission."
Risk management is a major focus for the attendees this year. Using the RM process, PACAF has already achieved a 30-percent reduction in aviation safety mishaps this year.
"We work side-by-sidy with our nation's allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region," Clark said. "We all have unique methods of working to minimize flight safety risks, and the conference provides another avenue to give us access into each other's minds and creates a venue for us to examine how we can improve our own risk management processes."
At its core, risk management helps recognize, gauge and prioritize risks with an aim to avoid threats altogether or lessen the chances of them occurring.
"Risk management is a reflection of who we are as American Airmen," said Maj. Gen Kurt Neubauer, Air Force Safety Center chief of safety and conference attendee. "It's a direct result of every leader's effort to instill our Airmen with the thoughts, words, actions and habits to get the mission done -- safely and effectively."
Expert exchanges are a core principle to the U.S. military's role in building partnerships with other nations. These engagements come in many forms, and PACAF's safety exchange is a shining example of BP's strategic benefits.
"It's a tremendous opportunity for American Airmen to meet with their counterparts to exchange ideas, understand common safety challenges, share lessons learned and discuss proven techniques and procedures," Neubauer said. "That will go a long way to improve aviation safety programs and foster better interoperability throughout the region."
Clark couldn't agree more.
"Safety is an organic part of the mission in the Pacific. We all share a responsibility to deter aggression and promote stability," she said. "Keeping safety in the fore-front of our minds is how we increase aviation safety awareness and ultimately improve our ability to work together for the common good in the theater."
Nine nations who participated in last year's expert exchange have returned and approval was granted to continue idea exchanges in 2015.
"Repeat engagement is the key to building reliance with our partners," Clark said. "As a team, as a theater, we achieve greater risk management by sharing our ideas. We owe it to our Airmen to focus on safety. Continually engaging with our partners is a great way to discover new methods to protect our Airmen from risks that come with aviation and make sure they are capable to get the job done."