Commander's Risk Management

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Tamara "A-B" Averett-Brauer
  • 51st Medical Operations Squadron
You've heard a lot about Operational Risk Management and maybe even Personal Risk Management, but what about Commander' s Risk Management? 

As a commander of a unit that suffered two non-combat related deaths in two months, I certainly learned a lot about my unit during that stressful time, but I also learned a lot about my Airmen ... things I didn't necessarily know before their deaths. 

The good news is that each member had a current virtual record of emergency data, a clearly identified "person authorized disposition of deceased" and had listed a "next of kin." That expedited the benefits and services available to their grieving families. 

Other things I may have liked to know were personal relationship problems, alcohol or financial concerns, or loner behaviors that put my Airmen at increased risk ... not necessarily to fix their problems, but to provide assistance and encourage them to seek help. Some of that background helped me better understand my Airmen, but unfortunately I learned it after I lost them. 

For supervisors and commanders at all levels, how do you assess the risks your Airmen face? There's an evolving concept called Commander' s Risk Management, an approach to assess risks and issues in your units and a set of tools for your leadership toolbox. 

These tools may include the Wingman/Flight Lead culture, PACAF Cares, season-specific safety topics, driving and motorcycle safety programs, suicide prevention and sexual assault prevention training, 0-0-1-3, and the Culture of Responsible Choices. 

What about legal readiness? Do people have the opportunity to make a will or a power of attorney? Do they know why it's important to have those documents in order? For our Airmen, do they understand why and where their personal behaviors may place them in risky situations? For our non-combatants, have you helped them understand why we ask them to process the NEO line with every single wing exercise and do they understand being "Ready For Flight Tonight?" 

What about spiritual readiness? Do our Airmen and families appreciate that mental, emotional and spiritual readiness helps them be more prepared to deal with the stresses of military duties? 

Whether it's weekly Roll Calls, "Under the Oak Tree" counseling or the PACAF "Year of the Resilient Warrior," these are opportunities for supervisors and commanders at all levels to look your Airmen in the eye, really get to know them, and talk about important topics and life skills. By looking folks in the eye, you can see if someone just doesn't "get it." 

My most treasured times are those I spend hanging out with the ER or nursing staff in the late evening or on weekends. I get a chance to just talk and find out what's on their minds. I also get to hear their ideas to fix things, like having peers discuss approaches to prevent sexual assaults. Some of the best ideas to reach our newest Airmen come from the new Airmen themselves. 

None of us has "enough" time to do all that we would like, but we can make better use of the time (and people) that we do have. Supervisors and commanders need to make an effort to keep the flow of information going in both directions. 

Supervisors must help pass information up the chain to flight commanders, flight chiefs, commanders and superintendents. Please bring the good stuff too! We like new babies and weddings as much as the next person. But let us know what difficulties our Airmen face, whether financial concerns, relationship issues or work-related problems. We really do care, and by knowing our people better, supervisors and commanders can be part of solving these problems. 

As this year takes shape, how are your Airmen doing? Do they have the skills, self-discipline and judgment to do their jobs? Are supervisors and commanders assessing and managing the risks inherent in our everyday Air Force business and in your business of leading people? How are you performing Commander' s Risk Management?