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Air Guardsman earns top Air Force safety award

Under the Air Force Maintenance Resource Management (MRM) program, all Airmen are empowered to call “Knock it off” if they witness an action that could lead to a mishap. Lt. Col. Doug “Odie” Slocum, an F-16 pilot and the 162nd Fighter Wing chief of safety, recently earned the Air Force Chief of Staff Individual Safety Award for his work to bring the MRM program to Air Force units around the world. (Air Force poster by Lt. Col. Doug “Odie” Slocum)

Under the Air Force Maintenance Resource Management (MRM) program, all Airmen are empowered to call “Knock it off” if they witness an action that could lead to a mishap. Lt. Col. Doug “Odie” Slocum, an F-16 pilot and the 162nd Fighter Wing chief of safety, recently earned the Air Force Chief of Staff Individual Safety Award for his work to bring the MRM program to Air Force units around the world. (Air Force poster by Lt. Col. Doug “Odie” Slocum)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- An Arizona Air National Guardsman made the greatest individual contributions to safety within the Air Force last year according to the service's top safety office.

Lt. Col. Doug "Odie" Slocum, an F-16 pilot and safety chief assigned to the 162nd Fighter Wing here, was recently awarded the Air Force Chief of Staff's Individual Safety Award for 2008.

The award primarily recognized his work as the creator, developer, instructor and principal advocate of Air Force Maintenance Resource Management (MRM) - a program that empowers every Airman to speak up in the name of safety.

"Our wing has enjoyed a great safety record due, in part, to Odie's work in MRM and as our chief of safety," said Col. Greg Stroud, 162nd Fighter Wing commander. "We're very proud of his accomplishment. He is the second consecutive award recipient from the Air National Guard."

Slocum's initial call to action in the safety community was born from necessity.

An Air Force study of aircraft mishaps showed that nearly 20 percent of Air Force aviation mishaps are due to maintenance preventable human factors. Some common errors ranged from failure to follow published instructions to forgetting to inventory tools after completing a task.

Colonel Slocum's MRM program improves flightline safety and diminishes maintenance mistakes by encouraging maintainers in all ranks to point out potential problems and employ a "rule of thumb" application of basic error reduction principles - a stark contrast to previous 'top-down,' supervisor-driven safety programs.

MRM emphasizes a team approach to reducing human error through improved communications, situational awareness, problem solving, decision making and teamwork.

Last year saw a 79 percent reduction in Class A and B mishaps related to maintenance error across the Air Force - saving taxpayers more than $86 million.

"In 2008, there were no major accidents linked to maintenance human error at units where MRM is practiced," said Colonel Slocum who spent much of the year teaching the program to more than 25,000 aircraft maintainers across all of the Air Force major commands.

To help spread the MRM message; he authored a 'train-the-trainer' syllabus to ensure standardization across the Air Force. To date, more than 210 instructors have been trained and are helping to expand MRM's reach.

"Understanding how to utilize the principles is key to its success," said Slocum. "Since we believe that everyone must have a voice in safety, we have to change our mindset as supervisors and leaders - encouraging and accepting inputs from every Airman when it comes to safety."

In addition to instructing, he published an MRM newsletter for thousands of maintainers, stood up an MRM Web site for the exchange of information, and published numerous MRM articles for Air Force-wide safety magazines.

Underneath the many layers of his program, he employs a common-sense approach to safety.

"Our safety culture means a willingness to change the 'This is the way we've always done it,' mentality," he said. "Instead, everyone should stop and think 'Is this the smart way to do it?'"

Colonel Slocum is a command instructor pilot with 24 years and more than 5,400 mishap-free flying hours in the F-16. He was recipient of the 2006 Air National Guard Director's Safety Award, for creating and implementing safety programs which have significant, direct application to other Air Force and Joint Service organizations.

For more information on MRM visit www.afmrm.org.