Operations Flight Commander Wins 2016 Federal Engineer of the Year

May/June 2016

NSPE Today
Operations Flight Commander Wins 2016 Federal Engineer of the Year

Major Josh Aldred, P.E.Major Josh Aldred, P.E., operations flight commander of the Air Force’s Kunsan Air Base in  South Korea, was named NSPE’s 2016 Federal Engineer of the Year in February.

“I’m still actually in shock that I won the award, given the level of competition that was in this room and the amazing people that were nominated,” the NSPE member said shortly after receiving the award at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. “It’s really an honor.”

As operations flight commander for Kunsan Air Base, Aldred is responsible for the management of 170 military and Korean civilian engineers, an annual operating budget of $4.9 million, and the maintenance of 1,083 facilities encompassing 3.6 million square feet. He’s also responsible for the daily maintenance of the base’s $260 million airfield, which annually supports 6,700 F-16 sorties. And in his time at the base, Aldred has led emergency repair efforts on multiple critical facilities, including a sensitive, compartmented information facility coordinating real-time intelligence during recent escalations with North Korea.

Working in a taut geopolitical environment, Aldred feels his training and experience as an engineer is invaluable. “Being in a place like South Korea, where there’s a lot of political tension, you have to be dynamic, you have to think on your feet just because things are changing daily as far as the situation on the ground,” he says. The creative and critical thinking skills he’s developed as an engineer are something he uses almost every day in his position at Kunsan Air Base.

As impressive as his current work is, Aldred recalls an earlier time in his career when asked what work he’s most proud of as an engineer. “During my second deployment to Iraq, we actually helped train Iraqi militiamen in engineering and construction skills,” he says. “They were fighting against us previously, [but] we had helped turn the tides and were giving them training to basically rebuild their village. So they took some of those skills and completed that work. It was really rewarding.”

Not all of Aldred’s accomplishments have been on foreign soil. He recently earned his doctorate at the University of Texas. As part of his doctoral research, he developed a complex systems model for evaluating the potential costs and benefits of ozone control by activated carbon filtration in buildings, the results of which show carbon filters provide monetary benefits in commercial office buildings, long-term healthcare facilities, and K–12 schools.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, which funded Aldred’s research, is even likely to adopt recommendations from his dissertation in future versions of ASHRAE Standard 62.1, which is typically incorporated into municipal building codes to regulate ventilation and filtration requirements.

Major Aldred on the PE

“When I was a senior in college, I had a professor that was pushing us to get our EIT, basically to start the licensure process. A lot of us were kind of grumbling about it because he was assigning grades as part of the class to go take the test. I look back and I really appreciate that he pushed us to pursue our professional engineer license.

I’m glad that he pushed me to do that because I learned as a professional engineer, obviously there’s some great respect that comes with that, but also a lot of responsibility. And that’s one reason I was interested in joining NSPE—being able to collaborate with other engineers across the country, learn from their mistakes, learn best practices. I think it’s a great community to pull into, especially if you’re a PE.”

Commissioner López on the PE

Estevan Lopez, P.E.Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Estevan López, P.E., delivered the keynote address at February’s Federal Engineer of the Year Award ceremony, and he had this to say about the PE:

“There was such a demand for petroleum engineers when I got out of school that I was actually actively discouraged from getting licensed and becoming a registered professional engineer.

A decade later, it was pretty tough, but thankfully I was able to get it done. That was one of the good things that I did. I wish that I had done that right out of school.”