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Never forget Andy

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Bill Kale
  • 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron commander
On Oct. 10, 2001, Master Sgt. Evander Andrews, better known as "Andy" by his friends and co-workers, became the first American casualty in Operation Enduring Freedom. Sergeant Andrews was killed in a construction accident at the camp of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing at a different non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia. He left behind a loving wife, four children, parents, friends and his civil engineer family.

While I never met Sergeant Andrews, I know he served our Air Force for more than 18 years and he loved to be around heavy construction equipment. He was well respected by his Airmen, peers and leadership.

For those of you who have been deployed in and out of 379th AEW during the early years of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, I am sure you probably have many fond memories of hanging out at the Wagon Wheel in the tent city affectionately named "Camp Andy" honoring Sergeant Andrews. I know I relished spending time there after deploying to Afghanistan or Iraq.

What Sergeant Andrews did on Oct. 10, 2001, is very similar to what a lot of us do today. We work hard, sometimes in austere conditions and extreme weather, trying to accomplish our mission. One important fact to point out though is Sergeant Andrews was not killed by the Taliban, Al Qaeda or terrorists. He was killed in a construction accident surrounded by his fellow Airmen. A lot of the tasks we perform are dangerous or involve very hazardous materials just like the last task Sergeant Andrews performed.

An accident is an undesirable or unfortunate happening that occurs unintentionally and usually results in damage, injury or death. More importantly, most accidents are preventable. What amazes me is the amount of safety literature posted on every bulletin board, the training every Airman receives to perform their mission or activity safely, our Wingman culture of looking out for one another, plus the amount of effort every commander preaches about safety to their Airmen, and we still have numerous preventable accidents. Just about every accident I have seen resulted in an injury or damage which led to lost manpower, wasted taxpayer dollars, and squandered resources.

Still, we are not doing enough. We need to take the time to comprehensively read our posted safety literature, make sure we follow our training on the proper procedures to perform our mission or activity, truly watch out for our Wingman by taking the time to observe or correct what each other is doing or not doing properly and take to heart what our leadership preaches about safety.

Just imagine what we could do with the extra productivity if manpower was not lost to injuries, first sergeants conducting hospital visits, police officers writing accident reports, mechanics performing bodywork on vehicles, doctors undergoing emergency procedures, and commanders notifying families about the child or spouse they will never see alive again. Think of the money we could use on other important programs, improving facilities, or buying new equipment and materials.

While Sergeant Andrews' death was tragic, it probably was preventable like most construction accidents. I still consider Sergeant Andrews an American Hero because he answered his nation's call, served honorably and made the ultimate sacrifice. I am proud to be a member of his civil engineer family and wish I could have served with him.

Let's honor Sergeant Andrews by taking time before any task and make sure we perform it safely so we can ensure mission accomplishment. Never forget Andy!