Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Peterson Space Observer

Thule Airman accepted to safety council

By Lea Johnson

21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — One Airman’s poor safety choice has landed him the opportunity to talk to other Airmen about making good safety choices, so others can learn from his mistake.

Senior Airman James Heady, 821st Air Base Group postal clerk, was selected for the Air Force Safety Center’s Airman-to-Airman Safety Advisory Council.

Lt. Col. John Duda, 21st Space Wing safety office, said the A2A program is set up under Maj. Gen. Gregory Feest, Air Force chief of safety, and the safety center. “People from the peer group of our Airmen can go out and give testimonial stories about a mishap they were involved with or a near miss,” Duda said.

The program targets Airmen ages 18 to 29. “They seem to take on the most high-risk activities,” Duda said.

Younger Airmen are also better at conveying safety messages to their peers. “It has a lot more credibility with the peer group instead of leadership always standing up there and lecturing you on safety,” he said.

Heady received notice through his chain of command that the A2A council was seeking Airmen with compelling stories and his fit the bill. While stationed at Langley Air Force Base, Va., in 2009, he and some friends had been stuck in the dorms during a heavy rain storm when they decided to go for Chinese food, a trip that normally took five minutes. “It turned into an hour,” he said. “Our truck ended up stalling out on base and we had to wade through flood water to get back to the dorms.”

Heady later discovered that 127 American’s die every year from being swept away by flood waters. “After I read all these statistics I was like — wow, I’m really lucky because I could have been one of those that didn’t make it,” he said.

To apply, Heady had to submit his story and a letter of recommendation from his commander. He then had a phone interview with Mark Pannell, Air Force Space Command safety office.

“I feel a sense of pride that I was nominated and selected. I feel like I can give something back,” Heady said.

In February, Heady will go to Kirtland AFB, N.M., for training before he begins a year of speaking engagements, video teleconferences, and filming commercials for the Air Force news network. He will also take part in discussions of how to raise safety awareness among Airmen.

The council allows the Air Force to come up with programs that are practical, executable, and in a language everyone can understand, Duda said.

In the past the group has booked different road and comedy shows that approach safety issues, both on and off duty, in a relatable way.

“Every day we make choices that we don’t think are dangerous,” Heady said. “I hope to prevent future incidents by my peers and the younger Airmen coming in.”

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