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Fighter Wing sets standards in safety

Brigadier General Joseph Brandemuehl, 115th Fighter Wing commander, presents the Air National Guard Safety Professional of the year to Sen. Master Sgt. Thomas Egstad of the 115th safety office. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ashley Bell)

Brigadier General Joseph Brandemuehl, 115th Fighter Wing commander, presents the Air National Guard Safety Professional of the year to Sen. Master Sgt. Thomas Egstad of the 115th safety office. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ashley Bell)

Truax Field, Madison --

Madison's 115th Fighter Wing was recognized recently for excellence in safety practices. The unit earned the Air National Guard's John J. Pesch Flight Safety Award, the wing's safety office won the Safety Office of the Year Award, and that office's noncommissioned officer in charge, Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Egstad, was named Air National Guard Safety Professional of the year.

All three awards were based on performance during the calendar year 2009.

Some highlights of the Pesch award include recognition of more than 60,000 hours of accident-free flying over the last 14 years, nearly 500 combat sorties in 2009 flown by the unit's F-16 and RC-26 aircraft without mishap and a nearly flawless performance in a NORAD Alert Forces Evaluation. The award also noted that the 115th FW was the only Air National Guard fighter unit to simultaneously support deployed combat operations and homeland air sovereignty missions, all while being subject to numerous inspections and evaluations.

The wing safety office earned its recognition in large part by leading the effort to make the 115th FW only the second ANG unit to earn OSHA's "Star" rating for its Voluntary Protection Program.

"This process really made us focus on the finest details - far above and beyond the regulatory requirements," said Sergeant Egstad. "The people who really made this happen were our unit safety representatives. We in this office set the goals and provided guidance, but the USRs in the field really did the leg work. The integrity, accountability and professionalism of everyone on base paid off huge."

115th FW chief of safety Lt. Col. Chad Milne said the Pesch Trophy is about more than just flying safety, but includes safe maintenance practices and awareness by all those involved in any part of aircraft operations.

"Our excellent showing in the Alert Forces Evaluation was in large part due to the ground operations, not just the flying portion," said Colonel Milne.

[National Guard Bureau Chief] Gen. Craig McKinley challenged all the National Guard to pursue that VPP Star rating, [115th Fighter Wing commander] Brig. Gen. Joe Brandumuehl made it a goal, and the wing took it to heart and did it, said Milne and Egstad.

The VPP experience directly impacted every aspect of the wing's safety program and practices, and the awards directly reflect the commitment to safety by everyone on base, they added.

"We are exceptionally proud of our team of safety professionals," said General Brandemuehl. "National military and civilian recognition for our wing safety programs clearly demonstrate the safety culture at the 115th FW. For decades, we have strived to make this unit the premiere flying unit in the Air National Guard, and one way we've done that is to operate safely every day.

"A commander's first concern is for the well-being of their Airmen; so accomplishing what we have over the last several years is truly a testament to being 'Dedicated to Excellence'."

The 115th FW previously won the Pesch Trophy in 2005, when it was also awarded the William W. Spruance Safety Award.

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