Robert Clapp: Distinguished Civilian Service Award Nomination

By Staff Writer

Robert D. Clapp, Deputy Chief of Safety and Occupational Safety Manager, 22d Air Refueling Wing (ARW) Safety Office at McConnell Air Force Base (AFB), KS, has been nominated for the 66th Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Award. It is the highest award he could possibly earn in his current position, and he is the first safety professional to ever receive the nomination.

To read what his colleagues and superiors say about Clapp, it is no wonder he was considered for the notable award.

“Mr. Clapp is a transformational leader within the safety community and has a long history of distinguished service,” according to Col Richard C. Tanner, Commander, 22 ARW. “His sustained outstanding performance drives tangible safety improvements across the air refueling enterprise and ensures continued mission success every day.”

The synopsis of his written nomination tells of how, when Clapp stepped into his position as Occupational Safety Manager at the 22 ARW Safety Office, the position had been vacant for more than 10 months. “Without pause, he quickly developed an aggressive management plan, turning around a stagnant program and launching it into a high-energy, pacesetting division,” said Lt Col Andrew Washburn, Chief of Safety, 22 ARW.

Clapp was instrumental in developing mitigation strategies for high-priority issues, such as hexavalent chromium exposure, which can lead to adverse health effects including nasal and sinus cancers, kidney and liver damage, nasal and skin irritation and ulceration, and eye irritation and damage (National Toxicology Program, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences). Clapp also championed fall protection standards in a further effort to ensure safe and effective air refueling operations.

He instituted safety initiatives and inspections that elevated the mishapprevention program at McConnell to premier status. As Washburn states, “His transformational leadership led the 22d Air Refueling Wing’s Safety Program to recognition as the Command’s best safety office as well as the best risk management program.”

As the Occupational Safety Manager for three wings, 22 host and tenant organizations, and more than 5,000 personnel, he led more than 15,000 hours of safety education and training for 900 unit safety representatives, ensuring compliance with Department of Defense and Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. He also designed the Wing’s motorcycle safety program and orchestrated the Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard contract, saving the Air Force $2 million in the process. In support of safe aviation and effective mission accomplishment, Clapp tenaciously lobbied for Air Mobility Command’s number one construction project, the $3 million Air Traffic Control tower at McConnell AFB.

Over the years, Clapp has received many awards—too many to list in this brief article—but among them are the Department of the Air Force Award for Meritorious Civilian Service from 2009 to 2011; Air Mobility Command Outstanding Safety Civilian of the Year in 2012 and 2019; and 22 ARW Safety Civilian of the Year in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2019.

Robert Clapp has certainly earned esteem and appreciation for his superlative, skillful leadership and vision. Congratulations, Mr. Clapp!