Christiana Care’s Audrey C. Van Luven, senior vice president and chief human resources officer, has been named an Honorary Commander in the Delaware National Guard. This two-year appointment reflects Van Luven’s commitment on behalf of Christiana Care to support active military and veterans in employment opportunities.
Van Luven was inducted as Honorary Commander of the 166th Airlift Wing Maintenance Group at a ceremony at the Delaware National Guard Joint Force Headquarters in New Castle in April. Joining her were the nine other 2015 Honorary Commanders, also leaders in Delaware health care, education, business and government. Among them is Christiana Care board member and trustee Skip Pennella, named to a second term as Honorary Commander of the 72nd Troop Command.
In her role, Van Luven partners with Commander Col. Michael Castaldi to develop and strengthen relationships between civic leaders and military members and to increase awareness and understanding of the assets each brings to the Delaware community as citizens, workers, employers and leaders.
“I am humbled by this appointment,” said Van Luven. “I am passionate about supporting our military. Our active military and our veterans bring skills and values that can benefit employers, businesses and industries across the board. We all should be looking for ways to advance our military in the workforce.”
With Van Luven’s leadership, Christiana Care participates in Hiring Our Heroes, a national initiative sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, to help veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities.
Being part of the 166th Airlift Wing Maintenance Group holds special meaning for Van Luven. Her father, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, was an airplane mechanic stationed in Dover for a little over two years. She notes fondly that her parents met at a USO dance in 1955. Van Luven has numerous relatives who have served in various branches of the military and a stepson who is currently in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Following the induction ceremony, Col. Castaldi and his troops gave Van Luven a tour of the New Castle Air Force base, where they work on aircraft maintenance, inspections, technology and safety. “We are committed to the health of the aircraft,” said Col. Castaldi, as they visited hangars, toured workshops and boarded a C-130 H2 cargo plane in for maintenance. The 1,100 troops in the 166th serve at New Castle and deploy overseas.
The use of Lean Six Sigma-style process-improvement models, employee-recognition programs and quality assurance, including an electronic tracking system for tools — not unlike the electronic health record — were compared to standards in health care. As Van Luven heard on the tour, “Planes are just like patients — a missing tool left in the plane can be catastrophic.”
As Honorary Commander, Van Luven will represent Christiana Care at events recognizing National Guard achievements, participate in leadership and educational programs and create community awareness.
Pennella said that Van Luven can expect an enriching experience. “I’ve gotten far more out of this experience than I feel I’ve given,” said Pennella, who chairs the board of the Visiting Nurse Association of Christiana Care and is a member of the Board Governance Committee. He is director of external affairs for CAI, a global information technology consulting and outsourcing company, and active in cultural and economic development in Delaware. Pennella, who served in the U.S. Army Reserve, called today’s Delaware National Guard “the best-led, best-equipped, best-trained force in its history.”
The Honorary Commander program is mutually beneficial, said Col. David Fleming, commander of the 72nd Troop Command. “Skip has been phenomenal,” he said. “I think of the military side, and Skip thinks of the civilian side. That’s the beauty of having an Honorary Commander.”
Van Luven looks forward to the opportunity. “Our military and returning veterans, with their rigorous, mission-focused team training and experience at rising to challenges large and small, are a valuable resource as we build the workforce of tomorrow,” she said.
Photo gallery: Audrey Van Luven named Honorary Commander
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