By Capt. Peter Shinn
U.S. Air Force
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. (1/23/13) – The director of the Air National Guard, Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, inducted the Air National Guard (ANG) director of safety, Col. John D. Slocum, into the Air Force Safety Hall of Fame on Tuesday.
Wyatt made the announcement at his final town hall meeting here in the presence of hundreds of other Air National Guard members and called Slocum’s achievement a reflection of his enduring effort to take care of Airmen.
Slocum has been ANG director of safety since 2009. In this role, he is assigned with leading aviation, workplace and weapons-safety policy and programs for more than 106,000 Citizen-Airmen from 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia.
“It's humbling,” said 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.
Slocum helped many safety programs succeed. Among the most notable is his creation and development of Air Force Maintenance Resource Management, or MRM, beginning in 2004.,
In the first two years after Air Force headquarters adopted MRM, the service marked a 75% reduction in human error-caused maintenance mishaps.
Slocum pointed out efforts to protect Citizen-Airmen, particularly with regard to resilience and human factors, reflected the ANG organization as a whole. He noted that the National Safety Council recognized Wyatt last year as one of eight “CEOs Who Get It”, a first for the Guard.
“Gen. Wyatt has been a great proponent of safety,” Slocum said. “I like his phrasing that ‘safety is just part of our DNA.’”
Wyatt is quick to point out Slocum’s transformative leadership in supporting Guard members and missions across the operational continuum.
Whether mitigating pilot fatigue through the ANG’s FlyAwake portal, to partnering with the Federal Aviation Administration to prevent mid-air collisions with the ANG-pioneered SeeAndAvoid.org, Slocum encourages creativity on his team.“Col. Slocum is not only a great leader and engaging public speaker,” Wyatt said. “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.
The Air Force is also recognizing a key ANG safety initiative pioneered by Slocum through the Air Force Portal, which recently began featuring 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 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 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 said. “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, according to Wyatt.“Every mission’s success is contingent on each Airman making it home safely at the end of the day,” Wyatt said. “[Slocum] is a transformational executive leader who lives the Air Force Core Values of Integrity, Service, and Excellence."
Slocum, a command fighter pilot with more than 4,000 flying hours, has also logged more than 600 motivational presentations to over 75,000 people during his tenure. He is only the second member of the Air National Guard to be inducted into the Air Force Safety Hall of Fame. 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. Vaughan, who launched both the Wingman Project and SeeAndAvoid initiatives, collaborated with Slocum on those and many other force-wide initiatives.
When asked what drives him to push the Wingman culture so passionately, Slocum described it as the essential element in safety.
“Safety ultimately boils down to being a good Wingman,” Slocum explained. “We look after one another and we hold each other accountable. A healthy, safe, and resilient Air National Guard is the result of teamwork,” he added. “It's been my honor to be part of this team.”