As the foremost health and safety conference offering global insights, informative case studies, access to leaders in the field and ample networking opportunities, we invite you to join us as we celebrate 30 YEARS of success! We will, yet again, offer the premier forum of opportunity to learn, share and influence the latest in safety procedures, research and lessons learned. With approximately 3,000 attendees, 300+ exhibitors and 100+ quality workshops, our goal is to create an atmosphere to give you the knowledge needed to successfully lead positive changes around your workplace enhancing safety while in turn empowering performance and improving overall wellbeing. Thus, all businesses across all industries are encouraged to send all employees responsible for health, safety and risk management operations. The ultimate conference mission goes beyond a few days of interaction as we create a platform to ensure when you leave that you support our association’s daily mission on ensuring that each and every person arrives home safely every night!
Come and join us for an exciting time and be inspired and informed by leading health and safety experts!
In the summer of 1993 Sergeant Keni Thomas was deployed to Mogadishu Somalia with the 3rd Ranger Battalion as part of an elite special operations package called Task Force Ranger. Their mission was to find a capture a criminal warlord named Mohammed Farrah Aideed. On the 3rd of October, Keni and his fellow rangers distinguished themselves in an eighteen hour fire-fight that would later be recounted in the highly successful book and movie "Blackhawk Down". Nineteen Americans gave their lives and 78 were wounded in the worst urban combat seen by US troops since WWII.
A powerful speaker, Keni captivates audiences from beginning to end as he tells the incredible story of extraordinary individuals and how they fought to bring each other home. Drawing from his experiences on the battlefield, Keni inspires people to achieve greatness by stressing the importance of outstanding leadership at every level, even if the only person you are leading is yourself. His message of "Train as you fight - Fight as you train and Lead By Example" epitomizes the Ranger motto "Rangers Lead the Way!"
Keni sums it up like this, "Leadership has never been about the rank or the position you hold. It's about the example you set. There are people to your left and to your right who are counting on you and its up to you to deliver. But you will only be as good as you prepared yourself to be."
After Mogadishu, Sergeant Thomas volunteered for one more enlistment in the Army. He became an assistant team leader for a six-man ranger reconnaissance team. He earned his master parachutist rating with over 400 military free fall jumps. He completed the Special Forces Combat Diver course, became an Advanced EMT and was one of ten Americans to complete the Belgium Commando Course.
Keni got out of the Army to pursue his music career and now works full-time as an award winning country music recording artist and songwriter in Nashville. He and his band Cornbread were featured in the movie "Sweet Home Alabama" and his music can be heard on country stations nationwide. Keni continues to serve our troops with regular tours to Iraq and Afghanistan.
He is a regular guest on all the major news networks as a military analyst and was also a military advisor for the Mel Gibson movie "We Were Soldiers". He has been recognized by the President of the United States, by Congress and has been awarded the American Patriot Award. But Keni is most proud of his appointment as a national spokesperson for the Hero Fund and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. They provide college educations to the children of our special operations personnel killed in combat or training.
"Our special operations warriors are the tip of the spear. Their's is a dangerous and high risk mission" says Thomas. "Because of that, they're losses are disproportionately high when compared to the rest of our military. Taking care of their kids, is the least we can do. It's what those dads would have wanted."
Keni Thomas is a graduate of the University of Florida, and the recipient of the bronze star for valor.
Jeff "Odie" Espenship
While Jeff originally hails from Lake City, FL, he spent most of his childhood among the kudzu and red clay of Georgia. Jeff chose the University of Georgia for his higher education and enrolled in the prestigious Air Force ROTC program.
Due to his demonstrated leadership and officer ship skills in cadet corps officer training, Jeff was awarded not only a full academic scholarship, but also a USAF pilot training slot. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, Jeff spent a year cheating certain death and destruction earning his USAF pilot wings. Having done this better than his classmates, he won the coveted “Commanders Trophy” as the overall top graduate of his pilot training class. Jeff also won the pilot training T-38 Talon’s “Hard Charger Award” for overall dedication to excellence and training.
Jeff became a USAF fighter pilot flying the venerable A-10 Thunderbolt, also known as the “Warthog”. He was stationed with the 18th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Eielson AFB in Fairbanks, Alaska.
While there, he qualified as one of the youngest 4-ship flight leaders in the entire squadron. He served as an instructor and was also combat search and rescue qualified. He won numerous Top Gun awards for air-to-ground bombing and gunnery. Due to Jeff’s outgoing, personable, always smiling, eager to please personality, his squadron mates quickly gave him his callsign “Odie” aptly named after the popular cartoon Garfield’s sidekick.
Now, few people know Jeff by his first name…but simply call him “ODIE.”
After 6 years of dedicated service in the Air Force, Odie decided to fulfill another lifelong dream by becoming an airline pilot. He began his career with Delta Air Lines in 1992, where he currently flies international routes out of Atlanta, GA.
Amid his tenure as an airline pilot, Odie also flew a 1943 T-6 “Texan ” on the airshow circuit. A tragic accident took the life of his brother, as well as the life of the pilot. This significant event in Odie’s life ignited the spark that helped create what TargetLeadership is today.
Odie has two children whom he is immensely proud of, a daughter and a son.
“They inspire me to be a better person every day. They also serve as a reminder for me to be sure my words are congruent with my deeds at all levels of family, business, and friends.”
VPPPA is excited to offer, for the first time ever, our Annual Conference mobile app to enhance your experience! This FREE app will give you access to the conference schedule, speaker information, floor plans, exhibitor details, as well as tools to connect with other attendees. This app will prove to be your BFF onsite! Not only will you get the latest program updates and information, but you can search the conference program, engage in social media and contact attendees using the apps dynamic features!
Use the conference mobile app to:
● Build your personal daily schedule - Plan your day by selecting sessions from the schedule, or events in the exhibit hall.
● Receive reminders and updates - Keep an eye on your home screen to see important messages, upcoming events, or notifications about sessions that are about to start.
● Engage and network - Read more about speakers and exhibitors, share information about the conference via Twitter, or Facebook, and more!
● Find what you are looking for - Use the search, filters, and floor plans to find sessions and exhibitors more easily.
● Personalize the event program - Select sessions, attendees, and exhibitors to create your favorites in for a quick reference to your schedule, contacts, booths, and other activities.