By U.S. Air Force Capt. Peter Shinn, Andrews Air Force Base, MD
/ Published January 23, 2013
Andrews Air Force Base, MD -- Lt Gen Harry Wyatt, Director of the Air National Guard, made an enduring statement about his priority to take care of Airmen, at his final Town Hall meeting today. With hundreds of Guardsmen gathered around, Gen Wyatt referenced this commitment in honoring the Guard's Director of Safety, Col Doug Slocum of the Arizona Air National Guard, with induction into the Air Force Safety Hall of Fame.
Col Doug Slocum, tasked with leading aviation, workplace, and weapons safety policy and programs for over 106,000 Citizen-Airmen from 50 states, three territories, and the District of Columbia, has been on the job since 2009. Slocum, who logged more than 600 motivational presentations to over 75,000 people, is only the second member of the Air National Guard so honored. Col Edward Vaughan, the Air Guard's senior Advisor to the Air University and former Deputy Director of ANG Safety, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.
"It's humbling," said Col Slocum of the award. "I appreciate the recognition, but safety is part of the culture of the Air National Guard - a safety culture that has been stressed and communicated from the top leaders of the ANG for decades."
In choosing Slocum for this honor, the Air Force Safety Center, commanded by Maj Gen Margaret Woodward, cited the ANG's 69% cut in major flight mishaps over three years, as well as Slocum's ability to spark cultural change and a renewed leadership focus on the wingman concept. Among the many programs Slocum leveraged for success, his creation and development of Air Force Maintenance Resource Management, or MRM, beginning in 2004 has likely had the biggest impact. In the first two years after MRM was adopted by Air Force Headquarters, the service marked a 75% reduction in maintenance human error-caused mishaps.
Slocum's efforts to protect Citizen-Airmen, particularly with regard to resiliency and human factors, highlighted the Air Guard's organization as a whole. In 2012, Gen Wyatt himself was recognized by the National Safety Council as one of eight "CEOs Who Get It", another first for the Guard. Slocum adds, "General Wyatt has been a great proponent of safety. I like his phrasing that 'safety is just part of our DNA.'"
For his part, Gen Wyatt is quick to point out Slocum's transformative leadership in supporting Guard members and missions across the operational continuum. Gen Wyatt said, "Col Doug Slocum is not only a great leader and engaging public speaker, he inspires those around him to become leaders."
In an organization as large and diverse as the Air National Guard, this is no easy challenge. The Guard is the only Air Force component with both state and federal primary missions. With men and women serving on seven continents and in every U.S. state and territory, Guard missions can range from combat action in Afghanistan, to supporting National Science Foundation logistics in Antarctica, to providing clean water and emergency fuel to survivors of domestic hurricanes and floods.
As evidence of the improved stock of Guard's safety initiatives, the Air Force Portal recently began carrying a link to the ANG's WingmanDay.org online commander's resource. Slocum and his team designed a plug-and-play, multi-media, agenda builder designed to free up commanders and supervisors to spend more time with their Airmen and less time in front of computers.
Slocum credits another ANG startup, the Wingman Project, with helping to empower each Airman to intervene to save a life. The basic premise of the suicide prevention effort, on which he collaborated with the initiative's founder, Vaughan, is to provide outreach, tools, and cultural support to enable families and friends to become valuable wingmen for service members. Yet, with suicide rates on the rise, and budgetary concerns in the headlines, the ANG is employing what Slocum calls a "layered defense" to try to support Airmen across the spectrum.
"Keeping our people safe and ensuring the readiness of our fighting forces is not a one-time safety 'thing' that we do." Slocum continues, "regardless of the environment or external pressures, we must tenaciously adhere to our core values in everything we do...safety will be the by-product of that commitment."
This linking of core values with safe mission execution makes perfect sense to ANG's three-star from Oklahoma. "...every mission's success is contingent on each Airman making it home safely at the end of the day." With a nod to his organizational wingman, Wyatt added "...[Slocum] is a transformational executive leader who lives the Air Force core values of integrity, service, and excellence."
When asked what drives him to push the wingman culture so passionately, Slocum summed it up like this. "Safety ultimately boils down to being a good Wingman. We look after one another and we hold each other accountable. A healthy, safe, and resilient Air National Guard is the result of teamwork. It's been my honor to be part of this team."