CMSgt Joshua Franklin, Career Field Manager, AFSEC, Discusses  
Making the (Career) Grade

By MR. MONTE NACE, Staff Writer

It can be difficult to think too far ahead when you are in your 20s and 30s, but the best way to ensure a long, successful, professional career in safety is to have a clear picture of where you want to go. Wouldn’t it be great to have a roadmap to help you get from Point A to Point B?

CMSgt Joshua Franklin, Career Field Manager at the Air Force Safety Center, Kirtland AFB, will be retiring December 1 after a long history of service. From his experience and in-depth knowledge, he created a roadmap and was willing to pass along some parting advice with readers of The Mobility Forum. For starters, we asked how he defines an Air Force safety professional.

“First, we are unique because this is the only service that has full-time military paired with Department of Defense civilians,” he said. “The professional part begins with training and education. From there, it is about people who make the deliberate choice to learn, grow, and make an impact on others.”

Franklin has seen many major improvements through the years. For example, the AF now works with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), particularly on slipping and falls from heights. When OSHA first became law, the military did not have to comply.

“That was a detriment to Airmen for decades,” he explained, “but now we are in the second 12-month period1  with no occupational/industrial deaths in the Air Force. That hasn’t happened since 1943 when ground safety was established.”

When Franklin cross-trained from aircraft maintenance to safety in 2004, he said getting a degree was uncommon, and certification in the military did not exist. In just seven years, though, the organization has gone from having no active duty Airmen with certifications to just over 25—plus 20 civilians (AF wide) with high-level certifications and just as many in the Guard and Reserves.

“The implementation of a safety management system gave us a way to show that what we do is working,” said Franklin. “Implementing an international consensus standard has led to things like the Air Force Safety Center winning the 2016 National Safety Council (NSC) Excellence Award.” Additionally, he was selected as one of the NSC Rising Stars of Safety in 2013—the only AF representative to receive the award that year. A testament to the excellence of Air Force safety professionals is that one has been selected as an NSC Rising Star of Safety every single year since 2010.

“No other organization has won consecutively more than twice, and no organization has been picked more than three times,” he continued. “This really says something about the training, education, and character of the people in this career field.”

According to Franklin, there are plenty of choices for AF safety personnel to consider when it comes to professional development. For example, the Mishap Investigation Non-Aviation Course, which was optional for nearly 20 years, is now a mandatory course with funding. Also, under the Air Force Credentialing Opportunities Online (AF COOL) program, Airmen get a fixed amount (currently $4,500) toward their choice of career certifications. It pays for things like certification preparation, exam fees, and annual fees for renewing or refreshing certifications.

“Last year,” he added, “the Air Force partnered with the American Society of Safety Professionals to bring in all active duty 1S0X1s and civilian safety professionals at the MAJCOM level with occupational safety duties—and the Guard brought in Airmen—for webinars and other resources they need to further develop as professionals.” The takeaway is just that: Airmen can take their credentialing units anywhere in the world. This year, the partnership will include all AF occupational safety civilians.

So how does the AF attract such talent into this arena and, more importantly, how do they keep them there when they could earn an average of $100,000 per year in the private sector? Franklin believes it starts with sourcing safety professionals.

“We were getting potential candidates from basic training, but now we focus recruitment on Airmen who’ve been in the Air Force for at least 4–6 years,” he said. “We do interviews and a 10-day assessment, putting measures in place to make sure they are serious about safety. Then, we must continue investing in training them so they don’t get bored in their jobs and leave. Most do not come into the service for a six-figure salary like private sector jobs pay. I think they genuinely want this career, and they will continue to serve if we give them training, opportunity, and a job with purpose.”

Franklin said the AF is willing to invest in people who focus exclusively on risk mitigation and on the health and safety of Airmen because of the proven return on that investment. The NSC says that for every $1 spent on health and safety, it returns $3 to $6 in cost savings and operational effectiveness.1

“That overall strategy is apparently working if you look at their willingness to stay,” he concluded. “We have an 89 percent retention rate all the way to retirement, which is rare and usually only happens with special ops or a huge reenlistment bonus.”

In closing, Franklin expressed appreciation to all safety personnel for their dedication.

“The Air Force made the commitment to have full-time safety professionals. Those of you who answered the call don’t take that commitment lightly. You put your hand up to defend the constitution, but you also put your hearts and minds into protecting Airmen’s lives every day. You are making a difference. Thank you!”

1 At the time of the interview (May 2018).