FORT WAINRIGHT, Alaska – Two members of Fort Wainwright’s Department of Public Works staff have been selected for top garrison honors for the year. Katrina Hughes, a contract performance evaluator and the mold program manager, has been selected as employee of the year, and Graham Wichman, the Engineering Division chief, as supervisor of the year.
Mold is one of the most significant problems for military barracks, housing, and other facilities across the Department of Defense, and Hughes’s work is critical to the health and comfort of Fort Wainwright’s soldiers, families, and employees.
Hughes’s supervisor, David Zrna, chief of Contract Management Branch, said that Hughes drafted the garrison’s mold response and mitigation standard operating procedures document.
“She coordinates with various directorates and emphasizes the importance of recognizing and remediating mold on Fort Wainwright,” Zrna said. “Katrina has been doing a stellar job along with her regular daily duties. She cares for the health and welfare of the soldiers and civilians on Fort Wainwright, and it reflects with a job well done.”
Mold management is not her only responsibility, however, and Hughes said she “oversees contracts to ensure contractors are meeting their contractual agreements in a timely manner, with adequate materials and in a safe way.”
Hughes has only worked at Fort Wainwright since October 2022, though she has accomplished much in her time here.
When asked what was one of the most notable projects she has been involved in, she replied, “For me, seeing the airfield painting project come to completion was up there for me. The airfield had been waiting years to have this done and being a part of the team to see this through was rewarding. Our team worked through nights, weekends, you name it to ensure the project was successful.”
Like Hughes, Wichman has also only been in his current position at Fort Wainwright for a little over a year but has worked at the installation since 2005 in a variety of positions.
When asked why he nominated Wichman for the award, Tim Sponseller, the Public Works director, said, “I nominated Graham for the supervisor of the year award mainly due to his outstanding efforts in effectively managing an enormous program load—larger than we have seen at USAG Alaska in at least the past 15 years, with over $400M contracted compared to a typical amount of $85M.”
Many of the programs that Wichman is overseeing are construction projects that are being tracked by the highest levels of the Army, Department of Defense, and Congress. They include the new Child Development Center, barracks, Community Activity Center, Aquatics Center, and enhanced main gate infrastructure, among others. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville, Senior Enlisted Leader to the Chairman Sgt. Maj. Ramon Colon-Lopez, and other dignitaries have visited Fort Wainwright and toured those sites.
Other significant projects Wichman has overseen have included new snow-making equipment for the Birch Hill ski area, renovations and new equipment for the post fitness facilities, and a new motorcycle safety course.
However, “the most significant single program that Graham established and managed was the Greenhouse Gas program,” Sponseller said. “Graham quickly established a vision and execution plan for the program. He and his team coordinated closely with customers, contracting agencies, and Headquarters Installation Management Command to establish project teams and complete detailed scopes of work and estimates on 12 projects that were awarded for over $108M of the $110M available, all prior to the 30 September deadline.”
According to Wichman, the work was truly a team effort.
“I need to emphasize that without the effort of my highly experienced team, we would have had to turn away this opportunity, based on the short timeline,” he said.
Wichman supervises approximately 45 employees in the Engineering Division. He has been dedicated to their professional development and has initiated continuing education opportunities, including their ability to attend relevant professional training in the local area. Local training saves the employees time and keeps them near their families while also saving the Army thousands of dollars in travel expenses for more distant training sessions.
Having worked at Fort Wainwright for 18 years, Wichman has an in-depth understanding of the needs of the installation.
“I fully understand the struggles with our extreme environment and old infrastructure,” Wichman said, “which makes me appreciate every win we get and every improvement we are part of to make this installation a welcome, safe, and comfortable place to work and live for our soldiers, families, and civilians.”