Mission first, safety always

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jose Martinez, right, 100th Air Refueling Wing NCO in charge of inspections and analysis, observes U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Sidlovsky, front, 100th Maintenance Squadron Aircraft Structural Maintenance craftsman, and U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Devon Postlewait, 100th MXS ASM apprentice, while they modify a piece of sheet metal Oct. 17, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. Before operating the machinery the Airmen put on the correct personal protective equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jose Martinez, right, 100th Air Refueling Wing NCO in charge of inspections and analysis, observes U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Sidlovsky, front, 100th Maintenance Squadron Aircraft Structural Maintenance craftsman, and U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Devon Postlewait, 100th MXS ASM apprentice, while they modify a piece of sheet metal Oct. 17, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. Before operating the machinery the Airmen put on the correct personal protective equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jose Martinez, left, 100th Air Refueling Wing NCO in charge of inspections and analysis, ensures U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Sidlovsky, 100th Maintenance Squadron Aircraft Structural Maintenance craftsman, uses equipment safely Oct. 17, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. Martinez and the rest of the safety office periodically go into shops to ensure Airmen are following safe procedures. (U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jose Martinez, left, 100th Air Refueling Wing NCO in charge of inspections and analysis, ensures U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Sidlovsky, 100th Maintenance Squadron Aircraft Structural Maintenance craftsman, uses equipment safely Oct. 17, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. Martinez and the rest of the safety office periodically go into shops to ensure Airmen are following safe procedures. (U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)

Personal protective equipment is ready for use Oct. 17, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. Due to heavy and loud equipment, maintainers rely on safety equipment to help prevent injuries. (U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)

Personal protective equipment is ready for use Oct. 17, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. Due to heavy and loud equipment, maintainers rely on safety equipment to help prevent injuries. (U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jose Martinez, 100th Air Refueling Wing NCO in charge of inspections and analysis, checks a report about a minor accident Oct. 12, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. There are around 300 Airmen across the Air Force dedicated to improving the safety of their wingmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jose Martinez, 100th Air Refueling Wing NCO in charge of inspections and analysis, checks a report about a minor accident Oct. 12, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. There are around 300 Airmen across the Air Force dedicated to improving the safety of their wingmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Sidlovsky, 100th Maintenance Squadron Aircraft Structural Maintenance craftsman, picks up safety glasses before carrying out his task Oct. 17, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. Safety equipment is vital for maintainers as they carry out their duties. (U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Sidlovsky, 100th Maintenance Squadron Aircraft Structural Maintenance craftsman, picks up safety glasses before carrying out his task Oct. 17, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. Safety equipment is vital for maintainers as they carry out their duties. (U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jose Martinez, center, 100th Air Refueling Wing NCO in charge of inspections and analysis, observes U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Sidlovsky, right, 100th Maintenance Squadron Aircraft Structural Maintenance craftsman, and U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Devon Postlewait, 100th MXS ASM apprentice, as they correctly fit their protective ear defenders Oct. 17, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. The safety office ensure Airmen are properly trained and equipped to carry out their tasks safely. (U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jose Martinez, center, 100th Air Refueling Wing NCO in charge of inspections and analysis, observes U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Sidlovsky, right, 100th Maintenance Squadron Aircraft Structural Maintenance craftsman, and U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Devon Postlewait, 100th MXS ASM apprentice, as they correctly fit their protective ear defenders Oct. 17, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. The safety office ensure Airmen are properly trained and equipped to carry out their tasks safely. (U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- It is a busy Monday morning, there have been meetings and extra jobs to carry out. A short-notice tasking comes in to fix a fuel cell to get a tanker ready to take to the skies. So what if Personal Protective Equipment isn’t worn just this once. It will save time and energy. But is it worth it?

This is where the 100th Air Refueling Wing Safety office steps in to ensure RAF Mildenhall Airmen are equipped with the tools and knowledge they need to carry out tasks safely.

“We’re occupational safety for the wing, which oversees safety for the entire wing and its tenant units,” said Staff Sgt. Jose Martinez, 100th ARW NCO in charge of inspections and analysis. “This includes the unit’s safety program, the facilities, the PPE people use and how personnel perform their jobs. We ensure they’re doing it correctly according to the regulations. We also teach classes such as supervisor safety training and a variety of driving classes for Airmen, civilian personnel and dependents.”

Safety office members are unique in their work because they specialize in seeing the finer details of the task.

“We are a very small career field as a whole,” Martinez said. “There are around 300 of us in the whole Air Force. The Air Force is the only military branch that designates safety as a career field option for service members — the others have civilians that take care of safety.”

Complacency costs lives, and for the Airmen doing the same task day in, day out, the repetitive nature of some jobs can foster an environment for mistakes to be made.

“The safety office sees everything as a whole,” Martinez added. “For example, the maintainers perform that one task they need to do — we look at the equipment used, if the procedures are correct and if they’ve been trained safely. We see it as outsiders, who don’t want to tell them how to do their jobs, but I can show them how to do it safely.”

Experience is very important when it comes to helping Airmen stay safe.

“In my 10 years in the Air Force, I’ve only been in safety,” Martinez explained. “My coworkers have all had different career fields first. Whereas safety is all I know, so I came in and learned how to be an Airman, while learning how to do my job which oversees so much at the wing level.”

The fast pace of work is unavoidable and it’s up to the safety office to make sure procedures are in place to ensure safety is at the forefront of any task.

“Some career fields need to get the task done fast; they’re constantly on the go,” Martinez said. “So we have to step in and correct any procedures that aren’t safe. Even if I don’t know the exact operation they’re doing, I can say ‘hey, you’re standing too high on that ladder.’ It’s another perspective they may not see because they are focused on their work. I see it from the outside looking in.”

The mission cannot be accomplished without the people. That’s why personnel safety is paramount. People need to protect themselves, and others.

“It’s challenging talking to people when it comes to safety,” Martinez added. “People want to focus on the mission first, and safety is secondary. I always tell them, ‘yes, mission first, but safety always,’ the safety aspect always needs to be involved.”

Even with training and equipment there’s the element of human error to factor in. If a mishap occurs, the safety office is there to find out why, and see that it doesn’t happen again.

“The safety office personnel are responsible for carrying out investigations so when someone gets hurt, on or off duty, we’re the ones who find out why it happened and how we can prevent it from happening again,” said Martinez. “We investigate something as small as getting stitches, to the worst case scenario — a fatality. A near miss for one Airman could be a fatality for another in a different situation, so we investigate every situation.”

Safety personnel ensure the mission can be carried out, while also protecting the people who serve. It takes a team of Airmen to see a potential issue from every angle, and reduce the risk so others can get on with the job at hand.

“We have a great team at the wing safety office, and we have been successful in working with the squadrons to mitigate risk and prevent injuries,” said Master Sgt. Lucas Shay, 100th ARW superintendent of safety. “Sergeant Martinez has been a pivotal cog in our efforts. His experience has been invaluable in identifying and correcting safety concerns that keep the men and women of the 100th ARW safe. We want all of our Airmen to go home to their families safely, and in one piece.”