Hanscom shines as first Air Force VPP Star site

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. - Marthe Kent, Occupational Safety and Health Administration Region One administrator, presents a plaque in honor of Hanscom earning Voluntary Protection Program ‘Star’ status to Lt. Gen. Ted Bowlds, Electronic Systems Center commander and Col. David Orr, 66th Air Base Wing commander. The ceremony, held Sept. 24, marked the culmination of a three-plus-year effort by base leaders and personnel to earn star status, OSHA’s highest safety rating. Hanscom became the first Air Force installation to do so. (Air Force photo by Linda LaBonte-Britt)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. - Marthe Kent, Occupational Safety and Health Administration Region One administrator, presents a plaque in honor of Hanscom earning Voluntary Protection Program ‘Star’ status to Lt. Gen. Ted Bowlds, Electronic Systems Center commander and Col. David Orr, 66th Air Base Wing commander. The ceremony, held Sept. 24, marked the culmination of a three-plus-year effort by base leaders and personnel to earn star status, OSHA’s highest safety rating. Hanscom became the first Air Force installation to do so. (Air Force photo by Linda LaBonte-Britt)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Marthe Kent, Occupational Safety and Health Administration Region One administrator, presents the Voluntary Protection Program Star flag to (from left) Dale Smith, International Association of Firefighters Local F78; John Sharpe, 66th Air Base Wing; Mary Kay Francis, 653rd Electronic Systems Wing and Senior Airman Melissa Nguyen, 554th Electronic Systems Wing. Hanscom became the first Air Force installation to achieve Star certification on Sept. 24, the highest recognition in OSHA’s VPP. (U.S. Air Force photo by Linda LaBonte Britt)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Marthe Kent, Occupational Safety and Health Administration Region One administrator, presents the Voluntary Protection Program Star flag to (from left) Dale Smith, International Association of Firefighters Local F78; John Sharpe, 66th Air Base Wing; Mary Kay Francis, 653rd Electronic Systems Wing and Senior Airman Melissa Nguyen, 554th Electronic Systems Wing. Hanscom became the first Air Force installation to achieve Star certification on Sept. 24, the highest recognition in OSHA’s VPP. (U.S. Air Force photo by Linda LaBonte Britt)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Italia Minchello, 66th Air Base Wing Voluntary Protection Program team leader and National Association of Government Employees Local R1-8 chief union steward, speaks about the unions' support and commitment to Hanscom's VPP during the Star recognition ceremony on Sept. 24. During the ceremony Hanscom was presented with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s highest recognition, Star certification in its Voluntary Protection Program.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Linda LaBonte Britt)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Italia Minchello, 66th Air Base Wing Voluntary Protection Program team leader and National Association of Government Employees Local R1-8 chief union steward, speaks about the unions' support and commitment to Hanscom's VPP during the Star recognition ceremony on Sept. 24. During the ceremony Hanscom was presented with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s highest recognition, Star certification in its Voluntary Protection Program. (Air Force photo by Linda LaBonte Britt)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- "Long may she wave," were the words of Marthe B. Kent, Occupational Safety and Health Administration regional administrator, as she stood alongside Hanscom leaders, employees and invited guests to watch as the Voluntary Protection Program Star flag was raised over the base Sept. 24, signifying Hanscom Air Force Base's status as the first Air Force installation to earn OSHA's highest recognition. 

The ceremony, held in front of the Electronic Systems Center headquarters building, celebrated and recounted Hanscom's three-year journey toward VPP certification. 

"This is truly an enormous achievement. I am just blown away by it," Ms. Kent said. "When people came to me from Hanscom three years ago and said they were going to do this in three years, I said, 'That's great.' Then I turned to my guys and said, 'No way -- it's going to take about six [years], but don't tell them that because they'll get depressed. Encourage them and let's keep going.' Here we are three years later. I'm so proud of you." 

During the ceremony, Ms. Kent presented Lt. Gen. Ted Bowlds, Electronic Systems Center commander, and Col. Dave Orr, 66th Air Base Wing commander, with a plaque recognizing Hanscom's employees and managers for their exemplary achievement in employee safety and health. 

After Ms. Kent's speech, General Bowlds addressed the large crowd. 

"VPP is becoming a way of life here; it's how we do business," he said. "You don't think about it as an individual program -- it's how we operate, it's how we look at our work environment and how we treat our co-workers to make sure that everything is safe." 

The general thanked everyone for their hard work and dedication over the past three years, including Hanscom's VPP mentor, General Electric Aviation in Lynn, Mass. 

"What I want you to walk away with today is a sense of accomplishment, but I want you to also realize that this is success in a journey that we're going to continue for a long time," he said. "This is not the end of the road. This is the beginning of the road because I suspect that our doors are going to be knocked upon by other folks within the Air Force that want to achieve VPP status.

"Just like we leaned on GE Aviation to help us, I fully expect other Air Force installations to lean on us," General Bowlds said. "We will welcome them with open arms just like GE did for us, because this is good for the Air Force; it's good for our nation."

Representing the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Logistics, Vance Lineberger presented General Bowlds and Colonel Orr with Defense Safety Oversight Council Mishap Reduction effort coins. 

"Hanscom has done some miraculous things when it comes to injury and illness prevention," Mr. Lineberger said. "VPP started in the civilian world; in the Air Force it's the workforce system. We don't have two safety systems, one for the civilians and one for the military. It's a single system that works for everybody and I think you've proved that here with your efforts over the past three years." 

Italia Minchello, 66th Air Base Wing VPP team lead and National Association of Government Employees Local R1-8 chief union steward, talked about the unions' support and commitment to Hanscom's VPP. 

"VPP has given management, unions and employees the opportunity to build better relationships by working cooperatively to operate an effective safety program," Ms. Minchello said. "We changed the mentality of our safety culture and attitude and you demonstrated through values, attitudes and actions that you care about each other's safety." 

Emphasizing the partnership effort that made Hanscom's VPP journey successful, Galen Williams, 66th Air Base Wing Safety director, thanked Hanscom's VPP mentors at General Electric Aviation in Lynn for being "the guiding light that put us on the road to success." He also thanked all of the individuals and organizations that played a critical role in achieving Star certification. 

"Today we celebrate reaching a safety milestone. Tomorrow we will continue sustaining our programs and seek other opportunities for safety improvements," Mr. Williams said.