The DynCorp International team working in support of the NASA Aircraft Maintenance and Operational Support (AMOS) program recently recognized their employee of the year and mechanic of the year at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas. Cindy Vasek, Logs and Records custodian, was selected as the 2014 Employee of the Year and Vince Cade, T-38 Flightline/Unscheduled Maintenance mechanic, earned honors as the 2014 Mechanic of the Year. Both recipients share an acute focus on how their roles impact the safety of their coworkers, as well as the lives of astronauts and pilots who fly the aircraft they place into service.
Each year the DI NASA AMOS management team solicits input and nominations for employee and mechanic of the year candidates from the entire workforce. Those nominations are then forwarded up the management chain for review and final selection.
“We include occurrences of documented customer praise in our evaluations,” said Jim Snowden, executive manager, NASA AMOS contract, DynCorp International. “We generally resolve the lists into two or perhaps three finalists, make one more review round across my senior direct reports for their recommendation and then make a final selection. The result is well-deserved recognition of those individuals who have the support of their peers, a record of significant achievement and whose performance demonstrates core values of the DI Star.”
The DI NASA AMOS employee of the year and mechanic of the year each receives a certificate and recognition among their peers and other unique opportunities during the year to demonstrate the company’s appreciation for his or her efforts.
In addition, the mechanic receives a custom toolbox designed and personalized by aircraft painter and coworker Mike Huff. Over the years Huff has created more than a dozen unique annual tool box gifts for his fellow award winning mechanics. He said, “I do it because I like to paint and create things that make people look twice. Also it’s cool to give people something that shows appreciation for the job that they do throughout the year. Anytime I’m given full artistic expression I’m going to run with it. That’s the best part, putting what’s in your head to canvass.” Huff created a Houston Texans-based toolbox for Cade, who keeps it in his Texans-themed man-cave.
Vince Cade was assigned to the T-38 Flightline/Unscheduled Maintenance Branch in 1994. He displayed first-rate technical skills and exceptionally high standards of aircraft maintenance quality. With more than 21 years of experience in NASA aviation, Cade explained, “The people I work with motivate me. I work with the some of the best aircraft mechanics in the aviation field.”
As a Designated System Inspector, he is the last person to validate that required maintenance was properly accomplished according to the technical data. He is also one of a limited number of mechanics capable of performing high power engine runs on the T-38 aircraft.
He is continuously sought out and relied upon to accomplish the most difficult tasks regarding maintenance on the T-38 fleet. Cade identified the most important aspects of his job, “The biggest challenge would be keeping up with the demand of the flight schedule and keeping our pilots up and flying; and resolving it by staying on top of the maintenance at all times.” An avid fisherman, he relishes as much time as possible with a baited hook in the water when he is away from work.
DI and the astronaut office developed a training program where mechanics and astronauts work side-by-side to enhance the mechanical skills of the astronauts. Cade confirmed, “My favorite thing to do is the astronaut field maintenance training program. I get to work one-on-one with the astronauts.” He provides guidance during all phases of aircraft maintenance explaining the importance of tool and Foreign Object Damage (FOD) control, use of tools, and some troubleshooting. The skills the astronauts gained from the training provided will be used when the astronaut travels to the International Space Station. This program was had been so effective, the training team was awarded the NASA Innovation Award.
Whether training astronauts or focusing on his daily maintenance duties, safety is paramount to Cade. “I have a family which I go home to each day. I work with the thought that the astronauts and pilots have families also. Safety is extremely important so they get to go home each day just as I do.”
Said Tim Wolard, director of maintenance. “His determination to quickly repair aircraft with quality ensured all aircraft flew safely and never placed a pilot in any danger. Vince is capable of working with no direction and often times prioritized the maintenance to best benefit the flight schedule. Vince is respected by all mechanics and the customer and truly deserves to be awarded the Mechanic of the Year.” Wolard’s comments underscore Cade’s belief that the most important example he can provide is “to respect others and take great pride in what you do.”
Cindy Vasek, 2014 DI NASA AMOS Employee of the Year
Vasek was recognized for her consistent level of achievement as a critical member of the DI maintenance control team. With 36 years of service within NASA aviation her knowledge and experience of the NASA Aircraft Information System (NAMIS) exceeds nearly every user within the Flight Operations Directorate. She is routinely called upon by mechanics, managers, and customers for her expertise. Her diligent efforts help prevent overflying any critical aircraft assets in the fleet.
Safety is always a prevalent thought for Vasek, who said, “We fix aircraft. Pilots fly them. The mechanics and pilots are my friends and I want everyone to go home safely at the end of the day.” She treasures the opportunity to work with her husband, Mike, a respected DI mechanic. “I love working with my husband! It’s nice to be able to discuss work and the day’s activities with someone who knows and gets what you are talking about. We are celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary in April, so I guess working together hasn’t hurt our marriage!”
During a recent inspection, the auditors commented on her professionalism and standards of conduct. In fact she was cited in the final report for a Commendable Finding: “Ms. Cindy Vasek is exceptionally proficient in NAMIS utilization. Her dedication to ensuring the integrity of the data has become even more apparent after detailed discussion and review of the Johnson Space Center NAMIS Maintenance Database.”
In another instance of her proactive commitment to safety and quality, Vasek took upon herself to monitor the tool/calibration department during a four week period when the calibration manager was out. She also provided direction and training to the temporarily assigned custodian, greatly reducing a single point failure. During the period, she tracked upcoming calibration tools from over a dozen departments each week ensuring tools were ready for pickup and delivered back to the shops in a timely manner following calibration. Vasek chose to support the tool/calibration department, a regular full time job in itself, and still performed at a high level as the Logs and Records Custodian. These actions support her beliefs about the lessons she would like to pass along, “To try offer solutions to problems and not just identify problems. Share information to assist others in performing their jobs well.”
Her nomination letter concluded, “Cindy Vasek clearly displayed the DI core values and projected those values on a daily basis. Cindy’s ability to complete work accurately, efficiently, and on-time has helped DI succeed in the technical aspect of the contract. She is routinely recognized by the mechanics and the customer as the resident expert and is called upon for various tasks on a daily basis. Cindy is vital to the success of the contract and to the customer and is worthy of this recognition.”
Multitalented and with enthusiastic family support, Vasek revealed “I’m into home improvements. I know how to lay brick, set tile and I enjoy sewing. I’m close to my parents and daughter, and I just love being a grandma to my beautiful granddaughter, Annie. She calls me Mimi!” Having started her NASA aviation career just two weeks out of high school, Vasek said “Working with the NASA organization at JSC has been a great adventure. Just getting to play a small part in many historical events is something I will enjoy sharing with my granddaughter when she gets older.”