News | May 25, 2022

Preparing for workplace reentry: A behind-the-scenes hero

By Irene Smith DLA Energy Public Affairs

It’s been 26 months since Defense Logistics Agency Energy employees were told to vacate their workspaces due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While most of the McNamara Headquarters workers teleworked from home, Kara Wagner, a GS-11 employee, and retired U.S. Marine, stayed behind. 

As employees gradually return to their workspaces, they can be assured the spaces are safe, healthy, and operational thanks to a few behind-the-scenes heroes like Wagner, the DLA Energy Facilities Coordinator within the Program Analysis Branch of the Facility Sustainment Directorate.

Since March 2020, Wagner has been an active onsite presence during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions ensuring the DLA Energy spaces are kept clean and maintained. Wagner was identified as an essential employee by DLA Energy Command Staff where she effectively oversaw and managed the safety and security of the DLA Headquarters facility when the rise in COVID-19 cases kept personnel on maximum telework. 

“I volunteered to be mission essential due to the conference renovations that were on going and then decided to stay to work on areas of improvement that could get done while employees were away,” Wagner said. “My position description is not mission essential, but I chose to be for the Agency to take on other taskers while everyone was out.”

Kara Wagner talks with two Didlake employees
DLA Energy facilities manager Kara Wagner talks to the Didlake janitorial staff before they enter spaces to clean to clean and disinfect areas where someone tested positive for COVID. The Didlake employees were hazmat suits to protect them from being exposed to COVID. Photo by DLA Energy Irene Smith
Kara Wagner talks with two Didlake employees
Preparing for workplace reentry: A behind-the-scenes hero
DLA Energy facilities manager Kara Wagner talks to the Didlake janitorial staff before they enter spaces to clean to clean and disinfect areas where someone tested positive for COVID. The Didlake employees were hazmat suits to protect them from being exposed to COVID. Photo by DLA Energy Irene Smith
Photo By: Irene Smith
VIRIN: 220525-D-D0441-901

She measured the conference spaces and identified the occupancy standards for each known meeting space to meet social distancing restrictions. She worked with Didlake cleaning contractors to disinfect, clean, and distribute personal protective equipment including masks, hand sanitizers stations, disinfecting wipes, and clear masks for the hearing impaired.

One of the biggest challenges was addressing a mice infestation due to sanitation issues caused by open containers and food debris left by employees, Wagner said. 

“Nobody expected to be out of the office for more than a few weeks,” she said. 

She and the Didlake team addressed the facility's safety and pest control measures were in place.

As part of the DLA COVID-19 Coordination Team, Wagner helped prepare checklists and monthly emails to update employees and answer questions through the different phases of the pandemic.

“She is and has always been the consummate professional from the day I met her,” said Eric Wiedemann, DLA Energy Facility Sustainment Program Management Division chief. “Going above and beyond does not adequately describe her outstanding support to her customers during the challenging and unique COVID operations environment.”

Using skill and project management understanding, Wagner was the go-to person to address issues related to water leaks and damage to the ceiling in the DLA Energy Commander and Deputy Commander's Executive Suite, Wiedemann added. “She would report trouble calls and follows through to completion the various work orders in place.”

During the COVID-19 restriction, Wagner played a pivotal role in the 15-month renovation project of the Rear Admiral Kunkel Executive Conference room. She submitted and oversaw over $165,500 worth of DLA Energy internal conference room repairs including turning the room in to a secure conference room. 

“Kara takes great pride in satisfying the needs of her customers. She makes essential contributions to DLA Energy every single day,” Wiedemann said. “Her keen oversight and attention to detail ensured the timely completion of the Kunkle Conference room in preparation for use during the Fiscal Year 26 Installation Planning Review Board.”  

As COVID-19 pandemic challenges recede, Wagner continues her focus on keep the McNamara Headquarters complex safe and clean.

“Throughout this past year, we have had many hurdles to fight through as a team,” she said. 

DLA Human Resources Director Sharyn J. Saunders acknowledged the important role DLA team members who continued working onsite in Agency workplaces throughout the pandemic.

“No discussion of reentry and workplace safety would be complete without recognizing the large percentage of DLA team members who have continued working onsite in Agency workplaces throughout the pandemic,” she said in an April 22 message to the DLA workforce. “We could not have met our critical mission requirements without these employees, and we owe them our gratitude.”

DLA is working together to ensure a safe and productive return to more traditional working conditions. DLA headquarters remains in HPCON B and maximum telework is still in effect until designated re-entry.  

If you are experiencing stress or anxiety, please reach out to the DLA Employee Assistance Program by calling 1-866-580-9046 or visiting DLA's EAP webpage.