KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- Deaths caused by accidents throughout Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Jessup's 22-year Army career made him wonder how he could stop them from happening.

"That's what made me a zealot for safety and gave me the mindset to make sure everybody is safe," said the U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern's command sergeant major upon hearing that he won the Installation Management Command's Noncommissioned Officer Award of Excellence in Safety.

He's not the only one from Kaiserslautern to place in the 2009 IMCOM competition. Melissa Hastings, the garrison's safety manager, won in the Civilian Award of Excellence in Safety, and the garrison was triumphant in the Army Exceptional Organizational Safety Award.

Each year, Army units and individuals are commended in the Army Safety Program for their accident prevention efforts and safety-minded service.

Out of the 20 nominations from garrisons worldwide, only these three award winners will represent IMCOM-Europe in the Secretary of the Army and Army Chief of Staff Safety Awards for fiscal year 2009. Award winners should be announced by the end of January, said Michael Schwarz, IMCOM-Europe Safety Forward Functional Support Team chief.

"I think it's impressive that two individuals and their organization captured these big awards and will represent Europe at the Army level," Schwarz said.

Hosting the largest garrison safety day in 2009 and participating in the community's Armed Forces Against Drunk Driving were factors for these awards, but the "star" feature, Schwarz said, was the garrison earning "Star Status" in 2009 from the Department of Defense Voluntary Protection Programs Center of Excellence.

"Just by the fact that the installation itself got VPP shows that everybody is participating in reducing accidents and (performing) safe practices," Schwarz said.

Created by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, VPP recognizes industries exhibiting the best safety programs.

Kaiserslautern was the first DOD and Army site overseas to achieve star-site validation of its safety and health management systems, said Jerry Boland, a principal VPP specialist with the Concurrent Technologies Corporation, a contractor operating the DOD VPP Center of Excellence. Schwarz added that Kaiserslautern was also the only installation worldwide to achieve Star Status in the shortest time - 24 months.

"We worked as a team, and I would not have been able to achieve anything on my own without the garrison working toward the goal of a safe working environment," said Hastings, who stressed that the entire garrison - 598 U.S. and local national employees - was involved in the VPP effort.

Because leadership and employees are active partners in VPP, Hastings said the garrison has already seen a decrease in injuries and an increase in productivity.

"We have seen a huge decrease in the local national accidents - from 14 in 2007 to five in 2008 - that's a 64 percent decrease," said Hastings, who is the administrator for all garrison safety and health programs and initiatives. "On the U.S. side of the house, there were 35 lost work days in 2007, and we had 16 in 2008."

Calendar year 2009 figures, Hastings said, will be finalized in February.
In regards to the garrison's 2009 Safety Day, Hastings couldn't say enough about Jessup's role in making it the largest one the garrison has hosted for the community. A record number of 1,327 Soldiers, civilians and family members attended the event, and more than 30 agencies, units and directorates presented displays, demonstrations and exhibits.

"He was really a moving force in the safety day - reaching out to the community, getting people involved and talking to other sergeants major," Hastings said. "We would not have been successful without him."

Leadership involvement is crucial for a successful safety program, Schwarz said.

"What's important for the garrison is that they had a CSM who was actively involved and a safety officer who was engaged in making a safe work place," said Schwarz, who has known Hastings since 2004 when he was the safety manager for GrafenwAfAPhr.

Besides VPP and Safety Day, other factors contributing in the award selection are the goals and objectives of the garrison's Safety and Occupational Health Action Plan, a comprehensive safety and health training needs assessment, and two Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation free car inspection days.

"Yes," Hastings said, "I think we did a very good job this year."

(Editor's Note: Christine June writes for the USAG Baden-Wuerttemberg newspaper, the Herald Post)