RADFORD, Va. -- For one individual at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant, making sure every employee goes home safely every day has been a way of life.

Douglas McArthur Day, better known as Doug Day, has served as safety/risk manager at the Radford plant for more than 28 years. In those years, Day has seen many things to be proud of but nothing like the day of July 29. On that day, Gen. Benjamin S. Griffin, commanding general, Army Materiel Command, presented the Department of the Army's Individual Award of Excellence in Safety to Day, at Fort Belvoir, Va.

According to the Army, the individual award is given to the civilian, contractor, officer or non-commissioned officer who has made the most significant contributions to their organization's accident prevention effort.

Under Day's leadership, Radford reached one million hours of work without a recordable injury, the plant implemented a foreign object recognition program that reduced those incidents by 50 percent from fiscal year 2006 to 2007, and conducted plant-wide safety stand-down days to increase safety awareness.

"They really did a beautiful job (at Fort Belvoir)," Day said. "They made my family and me feel very special. It makes you feel quite proud and honored to be a recipient of such an award."

Day is quick to give credit to "Team Radford" for his receiving the award.

"I could not have accomplished this by myself. My risk management team and the operating contractor's safety and hazard group (ATK) team work on a daily basis to enhance the safety posture of the installation."

During an early August afternoon, Day's thoughts are many as he prepares for retirement - Sept. 30 is his last official day on the job.

"I had been thinking about retirement after my wife retired from her job as a teacher four years ago," he said. "Retirement is something you have to make up your mind on. So, I told my staff about my plans for retirement at a meeting on April Fool's Day. They asked me, 'Are you sure you're not joking''

"I love what I'm doing, but it's time to do something else. Many people at the plant still don't believe it. When you build up those relationships and have that camaraderie over the years, people say, 'Hey, you can't retire.'"

Not only has Day been associated with the Radford plant for almost 40 years, he is also a native of the city Radford. Day served 22 years in the Virginia Army National Guard before retiring in 1987 as a master sergeant. That life in the Army never left Day.

"That's why I enjoyed working here," he said. "It makes me feel like I'm still in (the Army). I work for a lieutenant colonel and I still keep my uniform ready (to wear)."

Day began his relationship with the plant working for the operating contractor Hercules Inc. - a predecessor to Alliant Technical Systems in 1965. By 1969, Day made the transition to the Radford government staff, first in quality assurance and finally in safety in 1975. In 1980, he was promoted to the position of safety management. Over the years, Day has acquired a wealth of knowledge in explosive safety. In addition to safety, Day's areas of responsibilities include plant security and transportation. Getting employees to participate is the key in making any ammunition plant safe, according to Day.

"I believe giving the employees responsibility and making them part of the decision-making is important," he said. "We have a form which employees sign making them capable of shutting down and before starting up any operation they think is unsafe. We had to get the unions' buy-in. I believe it's important to listen to the employees and the unions. The unions are one of your key allies at the plant. We try to build an atmosphere here where safety is like a sixth sense."

In promoting safety, Day also promotes the importance of how each plant employee is making a difference to the U.S. Armed Forces.

"We try to bring back troops that have used the material we make here," he said. "We recently brought in a cavalry unit out of Fort Bragg (N.C.) that had come back from Iraq. They flew two choppers in and landed them on the field. These helicopters fire our Mark 90 grain in the 25 and 30 mm rounds. The Soldiers met the employees and thanked them. It felt good to see the two entities talk. I saw the meeting bring tears to the eyes of the production workers."

Another noteworthy event for Day took place the evening of June 18.

"The Canadian Space Agency needed a safe haven for some equipment traveling to Florida. We were told it was worth $75 million dollars," he said. "They were on their way down to Florida to have this equipment launched via the Space Shuttle."

That device turned out to be the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, or Dextre Arm, which helps astronauts complete scientific and engineering missions in space. Day received a thank you letter and a large, autographed, color poster from the agency and its astronauts.

From helping the space agencies to keeping plant employees safe, Day now has a new challenge upcoming - spending more time with family.

Day is looking forward to spending his retirement with his wife of 42 years, Betty, and his three children, Michelle Hairston, Douglas Day Jr., and Kimberly Tuttle. Day also has four granddaughters and one grandson.

"I will spend more time with my family and spend more time with my son playing golf," he said. "He's a golf instructor, so now he jokes 'now you will have time to work on your game.'"

Day's son is the basketball and golf coach at Blacksburg High School in nearby Blacksburg, Va. Day said he will also attend many Virginia Tech football and basketball games.

Before he retires, representatives from the Defense Ammunition Center in McAlester, Okla., and JMC headquarters plan on harvesting Day's knowledge on explosive safety programs, their changes and challenges. Radford AAP Commander Lt. Col. Jon Drushal, spoke on Day's success.

"Mr. Day has been a priceless member of Team Radford and a source of valuable institutional knowledge that will be sorely missed. He should expect a few phone calls in his well deserved retirement."

And how does Day summarize working in safety at any ammunition plant'

"It's an amazing everyday challenge and one that I'm going to miss," he said.

Radford AAP is a subordinate installation of JMC, headquartered in Rock Island, Ill. JMC manages the ArmyAca,!a,,cs plants and depots that manufacture, store, issue and demilitarize conventional ammunition for all U.S. military services and selected non-Department of Defense customers.

JMC serves as DoDAca,!a,,cs field operating agency for the Single Manager for Conventional Ammunition mission. Radford is a government-owned, contractor-operated facility operated by Alliant Technical Systems.