Tech. Sgt. Joshua Franklin, 100th Air Refueling Wing.

Tech. Sgt. Joshua Franklin, 100th Air Refueling Wing. (Geoff Ziezulewicz / S&S)

Hey, stay safe.

You hear it all the time downrange and here in England. So at first glance, the Air Force’s annual "101 Critical Days of Summer" program might just sound like more of the same.

But guess what? People get a tad intoxicated by the warmth and feeling of freedom that summer brings.

Tech. Sgt. Joshua Franklin is the 100th Air Refueling Wing’s ground safety technician, and he’s heading up this year’s "101 Critical Days" campaign at RAF Mildenhall. He doesn’t want you to not have fun. He just wants you to stay safe.

So are we in the midst of these 101 critical days already? Has it started?

It has. It always runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. To make it a 101 this year it ends the night of Sept. 1.

This is a recurring Air Force program. What makes these 101 days a more dangerous time, as opposed to the other 264 days of the year?

People are getting outside more and doing a lot more things that they don’t do in the winter time. Which means they have not done them for the past six months and are maybe a bit more inexperienced. More road trips — especially road trips in Europe — more water sports. And they get hurt.

The Air Force is full of these annual programs. Why does leadership believe summer is so dangerous?

The difference in the Air Force is our younger demographic. In the civilian world, you have demographics everywhere. Here it’s concentrated. Our deaths occur between 18 years old and 24 to 26 years old. We have so many people that are moved out of their home, whether it’s Omaha or Florida, and we put them in England. Now they’re driving on the other side of the road. Now they’re doing different stuff, experiencing new things. A different environment and no parents. This is college without the same structure of school, so that younger demographic drives our fatalities. There were 19 [Air Force-wide] last year, two more than the year before, just during the 101 days of summer.

What would you say to the 19-year-old airman who reads this and thinks it’s just another corny command program?

I do understand the jaded mentality you can get. We are force-fed so many things. Everybody gets 50 to 100 e-mails every day about every little thing. But this one is going to keep you alive if you pay attention. Know that it can be you. Whether you’re a young airman, whether you’re a [company grade officer], captain, lieutenant, your peers have died, here on this base. People that we all knew ended their lives here in [car] accidents, motorcycle accidents.

What initiatives go on in connection to this?

Air Force-wide, they kind of leave it up to the base. We’ll continue our training, where every Friday we get six participants to go with a U.K. driving trainer. It’s like a defensive driving course in the U.K. We’re also trying to do more in the local community with [car] safety.

We all love summer. We all tend to live a little looser to some degree. Is that something that’s just in us, where our guard goes down when the weather gets nice?

One good example is road trips. Road trips are quintessentially Americana, and that is what we do. Gas prices might affect that this year a little bit, but we’re still gonna go on road trips. That is the biggest killer of airmen, bar none. A lot of times [accidents] happen in that beginning part [of summer], where you’re not used to riding your motorcycle.

Where can people go for more info? That’s the Air Force safety home page. It’s about actually thinking about what you’re doing before you do it. At my first base, we used to cliff dive all the time. We thought that was the cool thing to do. I wasn’t in safety then. We used to go up on these 50-foot cliffs and jump off. That’s what you do at 18 years old. We’re not telling you not to do that. We’re telling you to look in the water before you jump, have somebody down there in case something goes wrong, wear shoes so you can climb back up.

Don’t stop what you’re doing. Just think about things and be more safe.

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