Safety paramount during NSI: PNAF mission success depends on cautious practices

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- The nuclear surety inspection team arriving Tuesday will not only be looking at how each squadron involved in the Prime Nuclear Airlift Force carries out its role in the mission, but if they also make safety a top priority. 

Although the program falls under the supervision and management of the wing safety office, success of the nuclear surety program is a direct result of the intense attention-to-detail and professionalism of many members of Team McChord, said Lt. Col. James Shigekane, 62nd Airlift Wing chief of safety. 

"Nuclear surety is the most critical mission we support," Colonel Shigekane said. "We cannot afford nor accept anything less than perfect performance. Mission success depends upon the flawless execution of every step in a continuous process." 

When the NSI team observes the 62nd Maintenance Group's flightline procedures, training records and the squadron's operations center, it will also pay close attention to see if Airmen are being safe while carrying out the mission, said Lt. Col. James Clavenna, commander of the 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. 

"It's a very comprehensive inspection," said Colonel Clavenna. 

"We're constantly talking about safety and moving with a purpose each time we're out on the flightline or in the shop," he said. "We preach that it is possible to work with a purpose and be safe at the same time without rushing." 

Safety procedures such as wearing reflective belts and hearing protection and practicing careful work habits are talked about at nearly every briefing, Colonel Clavenna said. 

"But safety is much bigger than just the belts and ear plugs," he said. "It also pertains to following the correct safety procedures when it comes to properly using support equipment. We can never talk about safety enough." 

Airmen who are on the personnel reliability program and those who work in the 62nd Medical Group take safety just as seriously as those working on the aircraft, said PRP monitor Staff Sgt. Sunshine Pille, 62nd Medical Operations Squadron. 

According to the Department of Defense Web site, they have to because Airmen associated with the PNAF mission must meet the highest standards of individual reliability when handling nuclear weapons and critical components.

 The PRP program helps to make sure Airmen associated with PNAF are emotionally stable, physically capable, reliable and competent. 

"We always remind Airmen that if something happens to them on their off time and they receive medical care at some place other than the base medical clinic or Madigan Army Medical Center, they must let us know," Sergeant Pille said. 

In fact, if Airmen are treated outside the base medical clinic by a provider without the knowledge of medical side effects related to flying or PRP, the mission could be in jeopardy, Sergeant Pille said. 

One Airmen who was not even enrolled in the program yet, went so far as to call Sergeant Pille on her cell phone before dialing 911 to tell her he was going to call an ambulance, she said. 

While his gesture took Sergeant Pille by complete surprise, she said, it was a perfect example of the dedication Airmen have to the program. 

"That's how seriously these guys take it," she said. "They know how important it is to follow up with us. It made me feel good that he called. It really shows that we're getting through to them."