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Think safety as you enjoy your Alaskan summer

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- As the amount of sunshine every day transitions from none at all to keeping us all up at night, it's time to think about getting out and enjoying the great Alaska outdoors.

It's also time to think about the legendary, 101-Critical Days of Summer and consider safety as you head out to partake in the myriad activities Alaska has to offer.

No matter what you're doing, have a plan and stick to it. Please let someone know what that plan is so we know where to look if you don't return. Also, remember the weather changes rapidly here, so be prepared for anything...bring appropriate clothing.

If boating is your pleasure, remember your life-jackets. The water in Alaska is cold and you could lose consciousness in the water... if you're not floating, that would be bad.

Hiking is a popular activity but remember that there are some very large animals in Alaska that like to use the same trails you do. I know it's a cliché, but remember to be "Bear Aware." Make noise, stay away from a bear if you see one, and whatever you do, don't leave trash or food lying about. There are "Bear Aware" classes you can take if you're so inclined.

Speaking of bears, they can also show up when you're camping. Again, limiting the animals' access to food is extremely important.

When in the outdoors, carrying a map or GPS is advisable. Remember, cell-phone coverage isn't exactly universal in Alaska and you may have to find your own way out of the woods.

I, like many of you, enjoy shooting sports - when practicing with your arsenal of firearms, remember to wear appropriate eye and hearing protection. It's extremely important that you shoot in an appropriate location (an established firing range is always good) and you know what is downrange.

Last, but probably most important, is driving and motorcycle safety. I have heard of the "suicide runs" to the Kenai Peninsula when the salmon are swimming up the rivers.

Driving while fatigued is a good way to get in an accident. In Alaska, it can be hours before anyone responds to render aid if you're hurt in a car or motorcycle accident.

Driving drunk - or even buzzed - is an even more surefire way to get in accident. Not only can you kill or injure yourself, but you have a great chance of killing or injuring an innocent person - not to mention you will go to jail and probably be forced to leave the Air Force Reserve.

Watch your speed - don't be in such a hurry that you're a menace to yourself and other drivers (a particular pet peeve of mine).

I know all of us have heard these safety messages our entire careers but there is a reason behind the constant drum-beat of summer safety lectures, articles and briefings.

Those reasons have been written in blood.

Think safety this summer as you have fun.