HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Episode six of “Above and Beyond Six Feet” will feature a spotlight on the career of Galen Williams, Hanscom’s Occupational Safety director, airing Feb. 25.
Williams will retire Feb. 27 after 46 years of combined military and civil service that took him around the globe.
The Kansas City, Missouri, native enlisted in the Air Force in 1972 as an aircraft maintainer, working on everything from fighters to cargo and training aircraft. Williams’ trade took him through Asia, the United Kingdom and Europe, until he retired as a master sergeant in 1995.
With degrees in safety from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and a master’s from Texas A&M University, Williams planned out his future endeavor.
“Safety was always a part of aircraft maintenance, and I excelled at it,” he said. “I thought, ‘why not make it a career?’”
His opportunity came in 1998, when he was hired as a civilian safety director for the U.S. Army.
“Things really got interesting from there,” said Williams.
He spent the next eight years deploying around the world where he oversaw contingency operations in Iraq, environmental safety in Poland and Albania, and mitigated risk management for cold-weather training in Norway.
In 2006, Williams and his family sought out a mission with a lower operational tempo. He crossed back into the Air Force when he took on the role of safety director for the former Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom AFB and hit the ground running.
Williams initiated Hanscom’s compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Voluntary Protection Program, and integrated the safety protocols throughout the installation and Air Force Life Cycle Management Center here. He even took a two-year assignment as an acquisition specialist to better understand the mission.
“Of the 15 years I’ve been here, eight of those saw our team named the best small occupational safety program in Air Force Materiel Command,” he said.
Williams’ contributions stretched beyond workplace safety when he served as the president of the local [Gen.] Charles E. McGee Tuskegee Airman Chapter, as well as Hanscom’s Diversity and Inclusion manager beginning in 2016; an opportunity he said allowed him to bridge generational gaps.
“It’s quite the experience to listen to folks who have been associated with the Air Force and the U.S. Army Air Corps for years, and have experienced all the bad things that happened during that time,” said Williams. “Diversity and Inclusion is about education, and making sure that our love for one another, regardless of color, creed or gender, moves on.”
Reflecting on his career, Williams said it doesn’t feel like 46 years. After seeing the world, he’s simply ready to experience his own backyard.
“[My wife and I] want to see all the national parks and take advantage of and enjoy the finer things our country is made of,” he said.
Williams will still play a part in shaping future safety professionals teaching occupational safety at Keene State University in New Hampshire.
In his parting advice, Williams encouraged the Hanscom community to reevaluate their definition of failure.
“A failed attempt is just another chance to do better,” he said.
Personnel can watch episode six of Above and Beyond Six Feet Feb. 25 at 2 p.m. Meeting number 16132061754, password number 473319.