AFIT alum Capt. Theodore Labedz (M.S. Engineering Management, 2019) earned the Arthur S. Flemming Award in the Applied Science and Engineering category.
OSAN AIR BASE, SOUTH KOREA
Story by Staff Sgt. James Miller
51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
3,864 miles, 10 American States, 4 Canadian Provinces, 8 Air Force levels, and more than 17,000 hours later U.S. Air Force Capt. Theodore Labedz, the chief of portfolio optimization with the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron here, earned the 2019 Arthur S. Flemming Award in the Applied Science and Engineering category.
The Flemming Award was created in order to single out and celebrate the achievements of unique federal employees, usually in the early part of their careers, who went beyond what was expected to make a major impact in society.
Capt. Labedz took on a complex research initiative that challenges Air Force infrastructure development in the Arctic and recognized that defense implication of the effects of the changing climate.
While these changes are being felt globally, the magnitude of these changes is greatly accelerated in the Earth’s Polar Regions. With longer Arctic summers and decreased Arctic Ocean sea ice pack, competition for control of this newly contested region and its resources is intensifying.
What started off as an experiment in his freezer at the Air Force Institute of Technology in Ohio turned into creating two first of their kind permafrost monitoring stations that were used at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. And was followed by validating his findings using electrical resistivity tomography.
“The simplified version of what I did was use a weather station and ground scanning equipment to document the impacts of infrastructure on permafrost,” Labedz said.
His research captured the secondary effects of infrastructure development in ice-rich regions. This information and insight from his research will give senior leaders the power to shape better infrastructure investment in a more environmentally responsible and economically efficient way.
This research impacted the entire civil engineer community, which was briefed at the Artic Science and Technology Conference and the Air Force Climate Change Working Group.
After his tour in Korea, Labedz will be going back to Eielson to continue his work to ensure that the United States maintains itself as the premiere power across the globe.
“I think this is a great example of the Air Force putting the right people in the right positions,” said Labedz. “I wouldn’t be able to be as effective at Nellis [Air Force Base] where it’s warm all year round.”
While the research aspect was vital in earning the award, Labedz whole Airmen concept helped him stand above the rest. From mentoring fellow classmates to coordinating events and creating a sense of community wherever he went, Labedz was a model for excellence in all we do.
During Operation Pacific Unity, Labedz was selected as the commander for 84 members in a binational effort from the U.S. Air Force and the Philippine Army and Air Force to construct a new elementary school for more than 2,300 students.
Despite being a model Airman and commissioned officer, Labedz never expected to be picked up for such an honor.
“Out of all of the people in the entire Air Force, in applied science and engineering, for them to say ‘Ted you’re doing a bang up job’ was really humbling,” said Labedz