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LAAFB, Air Force Stands Down to Talk Safety, Suicide Prevention

Nancy Hodgkiss, LAAFB Spouses Club, answers questions from the audience at the recent Safety Stand Down Day.  The Spouses Club was one of several organizations participating in the event.  (Photo by Jim Gordon)

Nancy Hodgkiss, LAAFB Spouses Club, answers questions from the audience at the recent Safety Stand Down Day. The Spouses Club was one of several organizations participating in the event. (Photo by Jim Gordon)

Base personnel check out a vintage Packard. The classic car was on display during the recent Safety Stand Down Day.  (Photo by Jim Gordon)

Base personnel check out a vintage Packard. The classic car was on display during the recent Safety Stand Down Day. (Photo by Jim Gordon)

Troy Daniels, a member of “Unleashed Ridrz” motorcycle club in Inglewood, won in the Motorcycle Rider’s Choice category. (Photo by Joe Davidson)

Troy Daniels, a member of “Unleashed Ridrz” motorcycle club in Inglewood, won in the Motorcycle Rider’s Choice category. (Photo by Joe Davidson)

Carol Hill, Space and Missile Systems Center, won in the People’s Choice category with her classic Dodge Dart. (Photo by Joe Juarez)

Carol Hill, Space and Missile Systems Center, won in the People’s Choice category with her classic Dodge Dart. (Photo by Joe Juarez)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- In response to an alarming rise in the number of Airmen and Air Force civilians who died in motor vehicle accidents or took their own lives in 2010, Los Angeles Air Force Base recently took a day to stand down and talk about safety and suicide prevention.

So far this year, nearly 30 Airmen, reservists and civilian personnel took their own lives and approximately 50 Air Force personnel have died in motor vehicle accidents. Many of those accidents can be preventable. As a result, an Air Force-wide wingman stand down was directed by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz to foster discussions at the unit level about suicide prevention, motor vehicle safety and being a better winngman by knowing your co-workers.

The LAAFB day kicked off with Lt. Gen. Tom Sheridan, Space and Missile Systems Center's commander, addressing base personnel at an all-call held in the Gordon Conference Center. During his remarks, the general called attention to the increase number of suicides and highway deaths this year. He also talked about minimizing risk and the wingman concept.

Personnel gathered into small groups within their respective unit to further discuss suicide prevention, safety and the wingman concept. The discussion topics were reinforced by watching a series of video vignettes.

Following the group discussions, personnel reconvened in the Gordon Conference Center where representatives from various organizations, which offer help to Air Force personnel including the Chaplain's Office, Safety, Airmen and Family Readiness Center, Spouses Club, Equal Opportunity Office, Inspector General, Mental Health and the Employee Assistance Program were available to answer questions and describe their programs. Many of these organizations had tables set up in the courtyard to provide more information about their programs, and related topics such as drinking and driving and stress management.

In conjunction with the safety stand down, the 61st Air Base and Global Positioning Systems wings sponsored a motorcycle safety awareness day, which included a car and motorcycle show. Kicking off with a parade of motorcycles, the event featured classic cars and motorcycles on display, vendors displaying the latest in protective gear, free motorcycle safety inspections and a panel discussion comprised of professional riders, law enforcement officers and emergency responders.

According to Col. Anita Latin, 61st Air Base Wing commander, the event reinforced both vehicle and motorcycle safety. This is the second motorcycle safety event held here, she said. The colonel credited the base's exceptional relationship with local communities in assisting getting MADD, RADD, California Highway Patrol, the El Segundo and Hawthorne police departments to participate in the event.

"The significance of the day is to make drivers and motorcyclists unified to reduce accidents," said Christina Silva, Clean Riding Style event producer. Silva emphasized the importance of car drivers and motorcycle riders staying aware of each other on the road.

Many of the panel discussion participants echoed the same safety messages when answering questions from the audience. They emphasized wearing the proper gear, drivers and riders awareness of each other on the road, riding the right size bike and the value of riding on a track under controlled conditions. According to the panelists, many beginning riders will start riding a bike that's too big or powerful for their abilities.

The motorcycle safety and car show event concluded with prizes awarded to the best cars and motorcycles in the Commander's, People's, Motorcycle Rider's and Hot Rodder's Choice categories. Carol Hill, SMC/PK, won in the People's Choice category; Troy Daniels, a member of "Unleashed Ridrz" motorcycle club in Inglewood, won in the Motorcycle Rider's Choice category; and Tony Ramirez won in both the Commander's Choice and Hot Rodder's Choice categories.