Paul Rogers: Visionary safety and environmental leader

By Connie Braesch DLA Energy Public Affairs

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Rich in enthusiasm and gifted at building relationships, Paul Rogers was steadfast in his pursuit of safety and environment stewardship for Defense Logistics Agency Energy.

His accomplishments built bridges, consistently exceeded expectations and shaped the legacy of the leader who passed away in 2017, just five years after retirement.

“Paul was a remarkable leader and a consummate professional,” said Laura Fleming, a former employee of Rogers’ and the current chief of DLA Installation Support for Energy Environmental Division. “He was dedicated to his employees, colleagues, the agency and his work. He was always willing to do whatever was required to get the job done.”

Rogers is being posthumously inducted into the DLA Energy Hall of Fame on Oct. 23 for his contributions and leadership in the advancement of DLA Energy’s mission. His wife, Mary Ellen, and several of their family members attended the presentation in Rogers’ honor.

Rogers started his 27-year DLA career in 1985 as a safety manager at the Defense Fuel Supply Center and where he brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to help revitalize a dormant safety program.

While his formal titles were under what is now DLA Installation Support, his professional focus centered on energy safety and environmental management. Making DLA Energy a safer place to work, helping to mitigate the impact of fuel spills and working to develop fundamental energy policies and procedures are part of the legacy he left behind.

When Executive Order 13148 was issued in April 2000, Rogers led DLA Energy’s initiatives to become one of the first in the Department of Defense to establish an Environmental Management System. Around the same time, Rogers played a significant role in the development of the safety portion of the DoD Management Policy for Energy Commodities and Related Services manual – DLA Energy’s governing document.

“Paul was my safety officer for a good number of years,” said John Bartenhagen, a 2016 DLA Energy Hall of Fame member. “He was a very thoughtful guy and a quick thinker who always kept the agency’s interests at heart.”

In 2011, when Congress requested the DLA director to provide a report on DoD fuel infrastructure, it was Rogers who led DLA Energy’s efforts. Rogers orchestrated a report drawing on expert analysis from the DLA Energy Sustainment, Modernization, and Restoration team and the environmental and property and accountability functions.

A dependable tactical leader, Rogers was trusted to handle even the most difficult situations.

In a 2001 Fuel Line environmental story, Rogers was interviewed on what was then DESC’s success in preventing and responding to oil spills.

“The first factor is timeliness – starting the actual cleanup of a spill as soon as possible,” Rogers said. “A spill doesn’t have to be studied to death before it can cleaned up. The longer the wait to take action, the more extensive the damage will likely be, the more expensive the procedure.”

“His onsite leadership during several significant fuel spills helped deescalate tensions and initiate good, long-standing relationships with DLA Energy customers and the American public,” Fleming said.

Rogers was a key leader in the cleanup of 17 deactivated fuel-storage facilities. Specifically, he played a significant role on the closure, cleanup, and transfer of Defense Fuel Support Point Casco Bay, Maine, to the Town of Harpswell.

“He navigated challenging situations with the safe removal of a 9-mile pipeline from the DFSP to Naval Air Station Brunswick, which became a hot issue due to its’ asbestos wrapping concerns. More than 100 private properties were involved,” Fleming said. “Mr. Rogers worked with DoD to get the funding and, in the end, the way the project was handled brought great credit and high praise to DoD and to the agency.”

Wayne Barnum, DLA retiree and previous employee of Rogers, agreed with Fleming.

“Paul was a calming force amongst some of the most stressful emergency situations that faced Installation Support over the years,” Barnum said. “One of the most important contributions Paul brought was his ability to find the common ground to get things legally done in a very bureaucratic situation.”

During his tenure, Rogers stood up several centrally managed programs – many of which are still in effect today. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Rogers began a pipeline inspection and safety program which has grown into one of DLA Installation Support for Energy backbone programs. In 2006, it was his idea that established a Leak Detection Program for capitalized fuel facilities providing inestimable cost avoidance to the DoD from early detection of releases, Fleming said.

“Mr. Rogers was not afraid to take risks when trying new things or ideas,” she added. “He leaned forward on cost-savings ideas for environmental and safety programs in support of the warfighter.”

Furthermore, Rogers began a program to conduct safety evaluations of all DFSPs.

“Through his influence, numerous safety issues received the attention and necessary funding to be rectified—specifically DFSPs Anchorage and Fairbanks,” Fleming said.

Often a pioneer in his initiatives, he developed DLA Energy’s Confined Space Entry program establishing testing and training for DLA Energy operated facilities.

“This program lives on today because of him,” said Diane Whitney, his coworker at the time. “Other DLA offices often called upon Paul for technical advice in Confined Space.” 

Through his foresight and ingenuity, Rogers set the course for many generations to come, colleagues said.

Rogers’ memory lives on through his wife, Mary Ellen, their four children and a handful of grandchildren.

“He was the calming effect while raising our children,” Mary Ellen said. “We all miss him so much, it was just too soon.”

The DLA Energy Hall of Fame, and its inductees, represents 76 years of history, which stretches back to World War II.

“In this year’s ceremony, we recognize four individuals who guided DLA Energy through four challenging decades beginning in the late 1970s through 2014,” said DLA Energy Commander Air Force Brig. Gen. Albert Miller. “They represent history and centuries’ worth of experience … their legacy will positively influence DLA Energy for a far greater span of time.”

Energy’s Hall of Fame was established in 2016 to honor and preserve the memory of past associates for their exceptional leadership, service, dedication to duty, and contributions in supplying fuel to the warfighter.