Driving safety underpins mission success

  • Published
  • By Maj. Gen. Mike Lutton, 20th Air Force Commander

Safely operating a motor vehicle is a pre-condition for mission success in our business. In the United States, however, vehicular accidents rank as the highest category of unintentional injuries for people ages 1 through 44. In many cases, these injuries can be avoided by paying attention to detail and focusing on the drive.

When I took command, I set three priorities, one of which is “lead nuclear surety and weapon system safety.” This goes beyond the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile and UH-1N helicopter. Every Sentinel Warrior in 20th Air Force plays a vital role in mission accomplishment, regardless of duty title, rank or experience. Each of you also has the responsibility and accountability to operate a motor vehicle in a safe and disciplined manner. Our mission and your safety depend on it.

We drive a wide variety of vehicles—from pickup trucks to semi-trailers—in some of the most austere and unpredictable environments in our country. We also log about 18 million miles behind the wheel each year! Driving isn’t a corollary to our mission; it underpins our mission … if we can’t get to and from our remote facilities, we can’t provide combat-ready nuclear forces and, on order, conduct global strike. 

As the infographic shows, most government-owned vehicle mishaps in 20th Air Force were preventable, root cause failure to drive safely and with discipline. Driving at speeds higher than authorized, failing to adjust driving habits as road and weather conditions warrant, and allowing distractions behind the wheel (such as using handheld devices) are 100% within our control. Understand that.  Accept that.  Meet that responsibility head-on.

Success in driving hinges on personal accountability and leadership, just as success in any part of our mission requires engaged Airmen at all levels. It starts with me, to set the conditions and provide the resources to enable safe vehicle operations, but every Airman in 20th Air Force has the authority to call “knock it off” for safety. I expect commanders, senior enlisted leaders and supervisors at all levels to proactively lead Sentinel Warriors to train and mentor all drivers. I also expect each of you to be a good Wingman and speak up if you’re in a vehicle that isn’t operated in a safe and disciplined manner. It doesn’t matter if the driver outranks you or is your supervisor … we have your back.