FORT McCOY, Wis. –
Earning awards is not what motivates Brian Russell to do his job. As a safety and occupational health specialist with the 88th Readiness Division, he enjoys doing his job and ensuring the safety and wellness of the Soldiers, civilians and facilities spread across the 19-state region.
That satisfaction in doing his job well is part of what helped earn Russell the Department of the Army Civilian GS 07-12 Army Individual Award for Excellence in Safety for the U.S. Army Reserve and U.S. Forces Command.
“I don’t do things with awards in mind,” Russell said. “I know out in the civilian sector you might get a good job or a handshake, that’s not why I do these things. But to be recognized for the efforts that are put forth, I think it’s pretty cool. I’m glad that the military and the [Department of Defense] does that.”
To earn the award, Russell was nominated by his supervisor, Michael Curtis, and was selected among his peers.
“Mr. Russell is extremely educated safety professional who continually strives to make himself and our safety office better,” said Curtis, the 88th RD command safety manager. “He collaborates with the other readiness division safety personnel, garrison safety and other safety professionals to develop better ways to enhance not only the 88th RD program but the Army Reserve safety program as a whole.”
Curtis cited some specific examples of projects and accomplishments Russell accomplished through the qualifying period that helped him stand out among his peers. Specifically, during the COVID-19 pandemic when most facilities and travel were shut down, Russell developed a virtual safety visit program that allowed the 88th RD safety staff to continue to maintain a safe working environment.
“If you take a look at what happened during COVID, I was looking for a problem to solve and that problem that I was looking to solve was how we were going to do visits when we were unable to be there in person,” Russell said. “When you’re not able to visit a customer, then the tendency for their program to slip is increased with that. I didn’t want people to get injured at work all of a sudden just because we weren’t able to go out there.”
In addition to establishing a virtual safety visit, Russell was instrumental in the support the 88th RD safety office provided to Task Force McCoy during Operation Allies Welcome at Fort McCoy, Wis., from August 2021 through February 2022.
“I put Brian in charge of the safety operations for the task force and provided him guidance along the way,” Curtis said. “He thoroughly exceeded my expectations. He formed a consolidated safety team utilizing both 88th RD safety personnel along with members from the 181st Infantry safety office, garrison safety and additional duty safety officers from deployed units. He developed a Hazard Log for the task force to track hazards found throughout the operation, provided recommend corrective actions to task force commander, and tracked the hazards until they were corrected or effectively mitigated. He consolidated the safety lessons learned from the operation and provided them for the AAR for future operations.”
With this award, Russell is now up for the Department of the Army level recognition. But he credits the team at the 88th RD safety office for all of the accolades.
“We try to actually have a lot of dialogue about how we do business so as to realize that we might all have an individual approach but the general theme of what we’re doing is the same,” he said. “The song we’re singing is the same.”