More than 270 senior leaders from the Air National Guard converged at the Wisconsin Air National Guard's Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center in Camp Douglas, Wisconsin, for the annual Executive Safety Summit May 5-6.
Adjutants general, wing commanders and senior enlisted leaders from around the country came together to discuss key safety topics and share best practices during the two-day summit.
Attendees heard from Jeff Skiles, a Wisconsin native and co-pilot on U.S. Airways Flight 1549, which Skiles and pilot Chesley Sullenberger navigated to a safe crash landing on the Hudson River in January 2009 after bird strikes caused engine failure.
Skiles noted the importance of individual team and crew members executing their roles in ensuring safety. During the "Miracle on the Hudson," as it came to be known, Skiles, Sullenberger and Flight 1549's flight attendants all did their jobs and had faith in the process.
"The real team is the entire group," Skiles said. "The group of pilots, the management, the people who create these systems that we work under so successfully. We followed our training. We utilized the tools that we were given, and we were able to accomplish our part of the greater goal. The immense power of that team is the true ‘Miracle of the Hudson.'"
All 155 passengers and crew survived that day, as a result.
Lt. Gen. Stanley Clarke III, the director of the Air National Guard, Tech. Sgt. Douglas Matthews, a Silver Star recipient from the Oregon National Guard and U.S. Navy Captain and NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore all delivered keynote remarks during the summit as well.
The summit served as an opportunity to drive home the importance of incorporating safety into every facet of the Air National Guard.
The Air National Guard has countless missions here at home and around the globe on a daily basis where safety must be paramount, Clarke said.
"The only way this continues is if we do it in a safe manner, because once we break the model for safety, everything else starts to stumble."
Ensuring that safety was at the forefront of every daily task, training exercise and combat operation pays off when it matters, many of the speakers stressed during their comments.
"In the military, you train like you fight," Wilmore said. "We do the same thing at NASA. Everything we do is with that mindset, and that does make a difference, I think. You can't lackadaisical in your training, because it turns out that you're lackadaisical in your operations."
During breakout sessions, leaders discussed how to implement that culture of safety into the fabric of day-to-day operations at National Guard air wings around the country.
"I think we've seen that here," Clarke said. "Whether it's surviving an attack by the Taliban, landing a disabled airliner on a river, or flying into outer space, that training makes you as good as you can be."
Volk Field hosted the executive safety summit for the second straight year.
Staff Sgt. John Hillier contributed to this report.