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Aviation safety stressed at annual conference

By Spc. Laura A. Bauer | Arizona National Guard | Dec. 12, 2019

TUCSON, Ariz. – More than 380 Army National Guard and Active Army aviators and civilians gathered Dec. 10 to focus on aviation safety, presenting the latest information and techniques to mitigate incidents.

Aviators from across the 54 U.S. states and territories attended the fiscal year 2020 Aviation Safety and Standardization Conference.

The annual event came the week after the Minnesota Army National Guard lost three of its members in a UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter crash Dec. 5.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 James A. Rogers Jr., Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charles P. Nord and Sgt. Kort M. Plantenberg died when their Black Hawk went down outside St. Cloud, Minn. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

“Our organization feels the loss of these men deeply,” said Brig. Gen. Joseph R. Baldwin, Arizona Army National Guard land component commander. “Sometimes it takes something like what happened in Minnesota to remind us that it is important to continuously build safety into everything that we do.”

The theme of this year’s conference focused on the route to readiness: learning from the past and training for the future. Learning from and using previous accidents and mishaps as teaching points is key to unit success, safety and readiness, said Col. Jason Miller, deputy commanding officer of the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center.

“We have to do something different. The environment is changing, and we have to change with it,” said Miller.

In fiscal 2019, the Army suffered 142 mishaps and 116 fatalities, according to operational risk management statistics. The leading cause of incidents was the failure to adhere to safety standards such as seatbelt securement requirements.

“The accident in Minnesota really drives home how inherently dangerous our business is,” said Brig. Gen. J. Ray Davis, National Guard Aviation and Safety Division chief. “Even when you are doing the right thing – the safe thing – accidents can still happen. It’s our intent to give these people the tools and information they need to help lessen those chances.”

Arizona Army National Guard Chaplain Lt. Col. Jonathan Harrop opened the conference with a memorial service for those who died in the crash.

“We lost good pilots and a crew chief; men who were passionate about the dust-off mission,” said Lt. Col. Harrop. “As a result, we also lost future safety officers, and a sergeant major, or whatever other roles they would have played in their careers. Their loss is felt and will continue to be felt.”