By MS. JESSIE PERKINS, AFSEC PUBLIC AFFAIRS HEADQUARTERS
On August 13, the safety enterprise commemorated one year under the leadership of Maj Gen Jeannie Leavitt, Department of the Air Force Chief of Safety and Commander of the Air Force Safety Center.
A path of historical firsts, Leavitt was selected to be the Air Force’s first female fighter pilot in 1993, where she excelled in the F-15E Strike Eagle. Another first in her career was marked when she became the first female commander of a combat fighter wing in 2012. It is the here, now, and tomorrow, however, that Leavitt encourages Airmen and Guardians to contemplate.
Since taking command, Leavitt has been the first chief of safety to visit many units and locations within the Department of the Air Force (DAF), improving policy, programs, and education across multiple safety disciplines.
One of Leavitt’s first charges as commander was to look at the Air Force Safety Center (AFSEC) organization and mission to ensure safety’s role was fully aligned with the DAF. Immersing herself in the scope of safety across the Air and Space Forces (USAF and USSF), she challenged her leadership staff to “think outside the box” during organizational strategic planning sessions and develop a way forward for the safety mission and vision.
“It was an incredibly successful event—Leavitt concentrated on topics that are pivotal and ensured that everybody was heard during the discussions,” said CMSgt Amber Person, Chief Enlisted Manager and Safety Career Field Manager. “The meeting has been key to some of the actions we’ve implemented during the year since she took command.”
“Airmen and Guardians are our most valuable resources, and our leaders recognize their inherent responsibility to protect them,” said Leavitt. “We need to provide the training and tools to help leaders protect our teammates.”
Indeed, both manned aviation mishaps and ground fatalities have decreased over the past few years. “While it is good to see that mishaps are trending downward in recent years, it is important to stay vigilant when it comes to hazard identification and risk management. Mishap prevention is a journey, not a destination,” said Leavitt. “I challenge leaders at every level to help our Airmen and Guardians develop a proactive mindset.”
Leavitt also spent much of the year traveling to Air Force and Space Force installations to learn how safety is integrated into their missions. She has been immersed in everything from pilot training issues to advancements in human performance.
Safety touches every task within the Department of Defense (DoD). To ensure appropriate attention from senior leaders is placed on preventing mishaps, Leavitt invited Laura Macaluso, Director, Force Safety and Occupational Health for the DoD, to Edwards and Los Angeles Air Force Bases in California to gain a better understanding of the safety protocols implemented during flight test missions. They also witnessed how artificial intelligence initiatives are being integrated to enhance human performance, yielding a look into the mission of Space Systems Command.
As the chief of safety for two services, Leavitt has had the opportunity to be the first to visit all three USSF field commands.
“My field command visits helped me gain a better understanding of the safety concerns specific to the USSF,” said Leavitt. “In addition to space safety, AFSEC support crosses all safety disciplines such as aviation, occupational health, weapons support systems, and explosive siting. I will work to continue normalizing safety support across the Air and Space Forces.”
Leavitt’s participation in the Senior Steering Group of the Common Standards Working Group, paired with visits to launch facilities at Patrick Space Force Base, FL, and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, FL, has helped AFSEC stay in lock-step on developing standards that enable the USSF to succeed in its mission while strengthening relationships with industry.
“The space launch arena is a dynamic environment with new commercial partners, platforms, and propellants, which will require a creative approach across the DoD to ensure we move at the speed of relevance,” said Leavitt. “This [approach] will be a key issue as we continue to expand launch partnerships with both commercial entities and sister organizations, including the Federal Aviation Association and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.”
Leavitt has also tackled weapons safety head-on, including the “nuclear bow wave,” the DoD’s modernization and recapitalization of its nuclear weapons systems. AFSEC is working with numerous Air Force and interagency partners on safety design certifications and the integration of nuclear surety requirements for multiple nuclear assets. These assets include existing weapons systems such as the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile System, the F-35 fighter jet, and the B-2 bomber, plus programs under development such as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent —now Sentinel— program and the new B-21 Raider bomber aircraft.
Leavitt’s visit to F.E. Warren Air Force Base, WY, to view the current and future intercontinental ballistic missiles’ capabilities and to become more familiarized with Global Strike Command’s mission to maintain and protect these weapons systems proved exceptionally eye-opening.
Leavitt has also heightened the importance of off-duty risk management, getting the word out about the role Airmen and Guardians have in it. Off-duty is where the DAF sees the largest number of preventable injuries and deaths (led by motor vehicle mishaps) recur every year.
In March, Leavitt kicked off the DAF rider safety campaign with the Air Force motorcycle safety program manager. This campaign focuses on improving motorcycle safety awareness through seven educational videos, seven podcasts, numerous articles, digital visual aids, social media posts, personal protective equipment demonstrations, and a safety roadshow. Motorcycle fatalities are currently trending downward, but we must stay vigilant in our mishap prevention efforts.
“Safety is a foundation to ensure mission effectiveness,” said Leavitt. “As we advance the Air and Space Forces into the future, we need to focus on taking care of our people—and keeping them safe—so they can take care of the mission,” Leavitt continued. “Our Airmen and Guardians will be our competitive advantage in future conflicts.”
Today, the influence of safety is critical to meeting its mission: Safeguard Airmen and Guardians, while protecting resources to enable mission success.
For more information on the safety mission, vision, and current news, visit: https://www.safety.af.mil/