My Story: James R. Fowlkes Jr.
I was introduced to the safety career field in June 1996. I had served in the U.S. Air Force for 24 years and was working in the aircraft maintenance field when I had an opportunity to retrain into the safety field. The Air Force allows individuals to retrain from balanced career fields into a job that is undermanned. We had to go through initial training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and continue our education through on-the-job training and additional training courses (e.g., OSHA 30-Hour, mishap investigation courses, fire and emergency egress, etc.). I chose the safety field because I wanted to work in a field that had good job opportunities after completing my Air Force career. The aircraft maintenance field had its limitations, so I wanted to ensure I set a path for broader career opportunities.
I also wanted to work in a field that would prevent needless mishaps and protect people and resources. I worked as a quality assurance evaluator for four years during my 11 years in aircraft maintenance. That opportunity provided me with some skills and experience in conducting incident investigations. I worked in the Air Force for eight years as a safety technician and continued my career in safety as an occupational safety and health specialist, working in civil service for the Department of Defense for 12 years. I moved to the U.S. Forest Service in March 2016, and have been the safety manager at the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests in South Carolina. I’ve also worked with Safe Kids of Sumter as a certified child passenger safety technician for more than 13 years and a certified playground inspector for eight years.
What motivates me is the drive to work in a field that is designed to keep people safe and to give them the tools and guidelines to protect themselves, their co-workers and family members.
James R. Fowlkes Jr.