Could It Happen Here?

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Richard Devereaux
  • 82nd Training Wing commander
I'm sure all of you, like me, were impacted in some way by the senseless violence that took the lives of 31 people on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg VA this week. I've been to Virginia Tech many times, and it's hard for me to imagine that level of violence intruding on such a tranquil setting. We all grieve with those Americans who lost loved ones in Virginia, and as a mark of respect, the President has directed that we fly our flag at half-staff until sunset on Sun., 22 Apr.

But besides grieving, there are some lessons we can take away from this incident that directly apply to us at Sheppard. First, given the size of our base population and our stressful training environment we must recognize it's likely there are emotionally unstable people among us. We all must be constantly alert to disturbing comments or behavior that may signal that an individual needs help--that's just part of being a good wingman. If your instincts tell you "there's something wrong here," act. Better to assume the worst and ensure an individual gets the help they need than run the risk that a disturbed individual could lash out.

Second, we must all be alert to the possibility that a disaster or catastrophe can strike our base at any time. Tornadoes (as we saw last Friday) are a continual threat. We work on an active airfield--an aircraft accident can take place here at any time with the possibility of injuries/fatalities to those on the ground. We always need to be concerned about a potential terrorist act. And as events at VA Tech revealed, any large academic/training institution can be the target of a random, senseless act of violence, even here at Sheppard.

Given that, we all need to be alert to announcements that may pertain to a looming or actual disaster/catastrophe on the base. If you hear the Giant Voice, stop what you're doing and LISTEN to what's said. If you see an Installation Warning System pop-up on your computer or an URGENT Warning e-mail, read it and comply. Most important, if you get the word of on an emergency on our base, do your part to spread the word. There is no technology or notification system that is foolproof. We all need to take the initiative to spread the word rapidly and accurately when disaster strikes. Don't ask "why didn't they get the word out?"; instead, say "how can I help spread the word within my facility or unit?"

This Virginia Tech incident will renew our efforts to ensure we are doing all we can to warn you when an emergency occurs on our base. But I challenge all of us to all do our part to spread the word accurately when a disaster strikes. Thanks Team Sheppard for your efforts to help keep our base safe and secure.