I entered the U.S. Air Force in 1983. My first assignment was as a logistics specialist. I was responsible for ensuring the management of mo-bility equipment, including the storage, handling and distribution of seasonal mobility equipment. During this time of my career, safety was not a word you heard often, or even at all. Everything was about getting the mission accomplished.
During that time, I experienced more than my share of accidents and injuries. I fell 7 feet from a storage bin onto a pile of Class A duty bags, which contain nothing but metal field gear. A screwdriver punctured my right thumb while I was assembling dexion bins. And last, but not least – the cherry on top of my list of career accidents: a new unit supervisor wanted a task finished ahead of schedule, so he took it upon himself to operate a 6,000-pound forklift and assist in moving mobility bins onto the loading dock. I was standing on the dock to give hand signals and guide him to place the next bin. He turned too wide and I had to jump out of the way, but not before he hit me with a bin and knocked me off the loading dock. This was the turning point for me to look for another career.
I reenlisted and was approved to change into the Ground Safety AFSC 24170 (Air Force for “occupational safety and health”). I attend-ed safety school in Denver and started my new career path as a safety specialist.
After completing school, I was reassigned to Holloman Air Force Base. My responsibilities were to provide consultation and guidance for 66 individual unit commanders in managing the safety programs at their sites. But the job was more than just conducting inspections. The other side of the coin was the accident investigations, which were never minor. I quickly learned that emotions need to be completely re-moved when conducting these official investigations.
Once I got out of the military, I found it almost impossible to obtain a position as a safety specialist, coordinator or even an OSHA compli-ance officer. I really wanted to become an OSHA safety compliance officer because it was right in my wheelhouse, but I kept getting shut out. So, I went to work as a correctional officer and facility safety officer. I served in that role for 17 years and then was fortunate enough to be able to apply for an opening with the North Carolina OSHA East Compliance Bureau.
I finally made it! The training and education I received from fellow compliance safety and health officers was invaluable. I immersed my-self in its procedures. Becoming an OSHA compliance officer is not the end of my journey. I was given an opportunity to return to the De-partment of Public Safety (prisons, formerly called DOC) to work as a safety consultant. This is the first time I felt that I was a welcomed pro-fessional. The position was very stressful because I spent so much time on the road traveling between sites, but it was the best position of my career until I decided to retire.
However, I only stayed retired for five months, because I missed what I loved. I took a position with the City of Greenville in North Carolina, where I have been working with a great local government organization of diverse employees and city departments since 2017. Just knowing that our employees are going home with some new or refreshing safety knowledge, injury free, and with their lives is the only recognition I need to make me feel that my job has been done, one day at a time.