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NEWS | Sept. 25, 2009

A "Time Out" has its place in the Air Force

By Lt. Col. David L. Siegrist 1st Airlift Squadron commander

The end of the fiscal year is fast approaching and, as a squadron commander, I have many issues to consider during this period. Of the many possible issues I could discuss, the one I want to focus on today is Leave.

In the following paragraphs I will draw two phrases from our AFIs and discuss how they relate to your welfare. Let's begin our discussion with the Air Force Instruction 11-2SAM-CSMV3, Crew Resource Management (CRM) Assertive Statement "Time Out."

During sporting events, a time out is used by the team as an opportunity to regroup, refocus and plan the next course of action. Similarly, aviators use the phrase "time out" to convey the following messages:

1. It provides a clear warning sign of a deviation or loss of situational awareness.
2. It provides an opportunity to break the error chain before a mishap occurs.
3. It notifies all crewmembers that someone sees the aircraft or crew departing from established guidelines, the briefed scenario, or that someone is simply uncomfortable with the developing conditions.

These three statements are pertinent to flight, as well as ground safety, and can also be applied to our daily lives. For aviators, as soon as possible after the time out has been called, they will take the following actions:

1. Safety permitting, stabilize the aircraft.
2. The initiating crewmember will voice his or her concern.
3. The aircraft commander will allow other crew-members to voice inputs relative to the stated concerns.
4. The aircraft commander will direct the crew to continue on the current course of action or direct a new course of action.

Did you or any of your wingmen call a time out this year? Did you deviate from established guidelines, lose SA, or simply need a break from the stressors of work? If so, did you stabilize yourself, listen to the concerns and take the needed action for your well-being? Perhaps the needed action was a personal time out in the form of leave. As a commander, it's my job to support and encourage my Airmen to not only identify when they need a personal time out, but to also take care of each other.

The second AFI phrase I want to discuss comes from AFI 36-3003: "Give members the opportunity to take at least one leave period of 14 consecutive days or more every fiscal year."

Leave is our ability to call time out for ourselves, or as supervisors, to ensure we direct our Airmen to protect themselves from the stressors of the daily grind. Leave gives us the opportunity to reconstitute our emotional and physical well being.

During my years in the military, I've grown to understand the importance of decompressing by temporarily easing back on the throttle. The 14 consecutive days affords the opportunity to completely remove oneself from the office. Sure, during the first few days you may remain on guard or find it hard to rest and relax. However, days 3-12 give us the necessary time to decompress, rejuvenate and "stabilize" ourselves back to level flight. During the last few days, you subconsciously begin to prepare for your return to work. Therefore, I urge you to call a time out when you need it, follow the AFI, and plan a 14-day leave period every year to rearm and refit your physical and mental alertness.

Leave is clearly a vital part of our lives and is an entitlement we enjoy, but it must be managed wisely - for our own sake and the sake of the unit.

As a commander I want all my Airmen to be physically and mentally ready at all times. Our jobs are dangerous and require healthy and focused people for safe and successful accomplishment. Leave is one of the best ways I can think of to ensure you are physically and mentally ready to give the Air Force 100 percent. So please, take a time out and manage your leave properly. It is important to your well being and it directly relates to that which makes our Air Force the best in the world!