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Air Force kicks off ESOH Symposium

  • Published
  • By Michael Briggs
  • Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment Public Affairs
The Air Force kicked off its 20th annual Environment, Safety and Occupational Health Symposium at the Colorado Convention Center here Feb. 13.

The largest military training event of its kind features 525 course offerings for more than 1,200 attendees and runs through Feb. 17.

Air Force senior leaders addressed attendees at a morning plenary session Feb. 13, encouraging them to get the most out of the courses and networking sessions taking place during a critical juncture in the service's history.

"Today, as we open a week-long training event, I encourage each of you, civilian and military, to take advantage of the opportunity to receive the latest information, valuable education and training on ESOH management," said Maj. Gen. Timothy Byers, the civil engineer for the Air Force. "I am certain everyone will leave here at the end of the week armed with the knowledge to succeed."

Operating with smaller budgets and increasingly limited training opportunities, the ESOH Symposium continues to provide value while delivering significant program training and certification, officials here said. Each student attends at least 26 hours of training during the week, estimated to have a value of $15,000 to $20,000 per student compared to similar commercial training courses. Yet the only cost to the unit is funding the temporary duty trip for attendees.

Sponsoring major commands have kept the production cost to less than $200 a student, which they fund. For example, more than 300 attendees will receive Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety certification this week. The cost for doing it at the symposium is about $1,500 for a week-long TDY versus around $60,000 for the same training if accomplished at a major command base, symposium organizers said.

The training not only provides value up front, but it also pays dividends in the long run, the general said.

"Sound ESOH practices are incredibly beneficial," Byers said. "They reduce environmental, safety and health risks, and make our practices safer. They minimize waste, prevent mistakes and make our processes leaner. With this recognition, suddenly ESOH practices become about more than just compliance and regulation. They become about organizational improvement and doing what is right for the Air Force.

"For these reasons, ESOH solutions -- and the mindset it takes to make them a reality -- are exactly the kinds of things the Air Force is encouraging going forward."

During his remarks at the kickoff session, Terry Yonkers, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics, called on attendees to use their ESOH training to help make the Air Force smarter, leaner and greener as it moves forward in a constrained budget environment.

"I can't remember a time when the Air Force was faced with so much change, so many challenges and imperatives to do less with less," Yonkers said. "I want to ... challenge you to redouble your efforts to find and help others find opportunities for increased efficiency to support the mission. Be an active participant in the change that's happening all around you."

Tech. Sgt. Daniel Mueller, a bioenvironmental engineer assigned to the 15th Aeromedical Dental Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, is back at the ESOH for the first time in several years. He said the courses and networking with others in his career field helps his professional development in a way emails and teleconferences can't.

"Each time I attend, I get to see where our career field is at and to learn about our new and changing ESOH role," he said. "Hearing from senior leaders gives us the 30,000-foot view of the way ahead. At my level, I can take that back to my Airmen and inform them about the direction of the career field. It makes me a better leader."

The ESOH Symposium is sponsored by Air Combat Command, Air Force Space Command, Air Education and Training Command, Air Mobility Command, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command. Instructors are provided through partnerships with the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment, Air Force Institute of Technology, Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, Department of Labor's OSHA Training Institute, and the U.S. Department of Transportation.