Wing commander stresses importance of wingmen

Col. H.B. Brual, 341st Missile Wing commander, speaks to members of Team Malmstrom during one of three commander’s calls held June 25 and 26.  Brual, along with a few other members of Wing One, spoke on the importance of preventing motorcycle mishaps and sexual assault.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Beau Wade)

Col. H.B. Brual, 341st Missile Wing commander, speaks to members of Team Malmstrom during one of three commander’s calls held June 25 and 26. Brual, along with a few other members of Wing One, spoke on the importance of preventing motorcycle mishaps and sexual assault. (U.S. Air Force photo/Beau Wade)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Col. H.B. Brual, 341st Missile Wing commander, invited all Team Malmstrom members to attend one of three commander's calls held on June 25 and 26. The intended purpose of the presentations was to remind and re-educate Airmen on two Air Force-wide issues, and emphasize the importance of preventing both.

Motorcycle mishaps and sexual assault were the two avoidable topics on the minds of leadership across the base during the hour-long briefings.

"It's all about wingmen taking care of wingmen," Brual said addressing Wing One. "It's all about you - you being safe. I want to make sure that you understand the risks that you're taking ... What does [Operational Risk Management] basically come down to? The risk is worth the reward ... I want to make sure you think about that."

Brual opened his briefing by sharing his personal experience with the risks associated with riding a motorcycle.

"I'll admit to you that I rode a motorcycle in college," he said. "I bought it while I was in college. I didn't take the basic rider's safety course, and within two to three weeks of getting that bike, I got into an accident. I made a decision at that point and said, 'for me, it's not worth riding a bike anymore.'"

The risks associated with operating motorcycles are statistically higher than when operating a four-wheeled vehicle. During the presentation, Lt. Col. Sean Boles, 341st MW chief of safety, shared some eye-opening statistics related to operating two-wheeled private motorized vehicles, including the following:

· 67 percent of motorcycle accidents end in fatality.
· The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,483 motorcyclists in 2009.
· More than half of all crashes involve riders who have less than five months of experience.
· So far in the Air Force during the 2012 calendar year, there have been 88 accumulated motorcycle mishaps and 1,594 days lost.
· Members who ride motorcycles are five-times more likely to get into an accident and seven-times more likely to be in a fatal mishap.

"When we talk about safety and mishaps, it really does become very personal," Boles said. "Our aim should be to continually increase our awareness and our culture to highlight three main factors: proper planning, risk assessment and making wise, or right, decisions."

Airmen planning to own and operate a motorcycle were reminded to take the proper safety course; the Beginners Riders Course, Experienced Riders Course or Advanced Riders Course/Sports Bike. Brual also offered up a challenge to both the experienced and beginning riders.

"So here's my challenge," he said. "For those experienced riders who have learned [hard] lessons, what I ask you to do is, be good wingmen. Take some of our young riders and mentor them - show them how to ride a bike safely. For our young riders, I ask that you go reach out and find a mentor. I'm hoping that by doing that it will accelerate your learning processes."

Learning about recognizing and preventing sexual assault is mandatory in the United States Air Force, but also something that is becoming a bigger concern throughout the service.

"[Sexual assault] is a topic that has one of the highest levels of attention in our Department of Defense," Brual said. "Here's the bottom line about sexual assault: It is Airmen preying upon Airmen. It is wingmen preying upon wingmen and it affects the mission capabilities of our United States Air Force and it treats individuals like they are not a person. The standard is simple in our United States Air Force. The standard is zero tolerance just like drugs."

Col. Robert Stanley, 341st MW vice commander, spoke on the impact sexual assault can have on the Air Force and the Airmen within it. He focused on the amount of sexual assaults that are reported and statistically not reported in the service and anticipated that all Airmen do their part in countering the offenses.

"[Sexual assault] is still a vital threat to the capabilities of the United States Air Force and I think, more importantly, it's a threat to our very souls as Airmen," he said. "America sends their sons and daughters to recruiting stations, and people willingly go to recruiting stations to raise their right hands and swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. When somebody does that, they're offering up their lives for the greater good of our country and our freedom, and when they're assaulted from within that very organization, that's just unacceptable. That's a cancer that will kill us eventually if we don't do something about it."

Stanley told the audience that victims of sexual assault can often become less-effective war fighters and shrink away from society, thus possibly decreasing the effectiveness of the Air Force. It is everyone's responsibility to find the "wolves in sheep's clothing," he said.

After a briefing from Maj. Allan Jungels, 341st MW deputy staff judge advocate, on the actions taken by the legal office and the ramifications a sexual assault predator undergoes, Brual closed the presentation.

"This stuff really happens in our Air Force," he said. "Unfortunately, a few bad eggs get in between us. Wingmen taking care of wingmen is what we need you to do. Stand up, be counted and be good Airmen."