The ceremony recognized employees for their significant individual achievements and group accomplishments and announced the District’s “Corps Day Awards” winners.
Williams and Vail kicked off the Awards Ceremony by welcoming Southwest Division Commander Col. Kenneth Reed, who was in the audience and making his first official visit to the Galveston District.
Vail presented his command coin to several District employees for their stand-out efforts during the third quarter. Honoring someone with a commander’s coin is an on-the-spot way for military commanders to show their appreciation for a phenomenal job. More than just a “thank you” or a pat on the back, a commander’s coin is something tangible to remember the occasion.
Vail recognized the following employees with his coin:
- Jo Ann McCue, a contract specialist with the Contracting Division, for her efforts in managing several contracts across the District.
- James Purcell, the District’s assistant counsel, for his work in preparing the District for the Hurricane Harvey litigation before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
- Paul Rodriguez, the Corpus Christi Resident Office engineer, for his service in resolving a deficient U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility.
- Scott Leimer, SWG’s Construction Management Section chief, in handling several key construction projects across the District.
The District Commander then gave some shout-outs to three employees who have been making waves in their respective offices:
- Rick Elizondo, of the Corpus Christi Resident Office, for his mentoring and expertise in managing the Corpus Christi Ship Channel CIP 2 contract.
- Joshua Mahon, of the Contracting Division, for taking over several key contract actions and awarding the $13 million hydrographic mapping and surveying multiple award task order contracts.
- Amanda Crawford, of the Resource Management Division, for assisting the entire District in the appraisal and plan process, helping employees with their time and attendance inputs, travel orders, travel vouchers, training classes, and supply ordering.
Vail then handed out two on-the-spot cash awards—both for $500—to members of the SWG Public Affairs Office, Francisco “Paco” Hamm and Carlos Gomez. Both were recognized for their efforts in managing several internal and external communications channels and keeping the public informed on several critical, high-visibility SWG projects up and down the Coast of Texas.
The SWG Regulatory Division then honored its members with their own special recognition. The “Regulatory Peer Awards” were established by the division staff, for the staff, as a way for the Regulatory team to recognize the efforts of their peers.
This year’s “Regulatory Team Award” went to Brad Dawe, for exemplifying the essence of teamwork. Dawe was cited as, “always thinking of others and going above and beyond to contribute to the Regulatory mission.”
The winner of the “Regulatory Marie C. Pattillo Custer Service Award” was Andria Davis. Davis was recognized for her professional curtesy and willingness to take part in anything that communicated the Regulatory program’s mission.
Marie Taylor was named the 2022 “Regulator of the Year.” Taylor’s leadership and communication skills were recognized by her division and was cited as being, “an asset to the Galveston District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”
Vail and Williams then awarded a certificate of achievement to a group of Contracting Division employees: Bernice Taylor; Arnette Rose; and Bryan Williams. The group received special recognition for closing out the cost share control record for the Corpus Christi-LaQuinta Expansion Ship Channel Feasibility Study. Taylor, Rose, and Williams’ efforts were instrumental in implementing a fix to a USACE-wide problem in the contracting process.
Several employees were then presented with the Army Civilian Service Achievement Medal:
- Kecha Bray-Coleman was awarded for her performance as a civil engineering technician at the Border Infrastructure Resident Office’s Rio Grande Valley program.
- Pablo Hernandez was recognized for his efforts as the Border Infrastructure Resident Office’s Rio Grande Valley program area engineer.
- Robert “Niles” Hooper, Nick Laskowksi, Jon Loxley, and Rick Villagomez were honored for their contributions to the Gulf Coast Protection District partnership, which culminated in the signing of the Orange County Project Partnership Agreement on April, 29, 2022.
- Tasha Metz was awarded for her performance as a member of the Aquaculture Reinforcement Team and coordination with federal, state, and Tribal partners on controversial shellfish permit action.
Three additional Galveston District members were then recognized with the Army Civilian Service Commendation Medal.
- Alberto Hinojosa and Ramon Navarro were awarded for their performance as Border Infrastructure Resident Office Rio Grande Valley program supervisory civil engineers.
- Michael Roberts was awarded for his work as a Border Infrastructure Resident Office Rio Grande Valley program civil engineer.
The 2022 SWG “Corps Day Awards” nominees were announced following the service medal presentations. Though the District’s Corps Day festivities had to be postponed, Vail and Williams insisted on publicly recognizing SWG’s outstanding employees.
Dr. Patrick Kerr, SWG’s Coastal Engineering Section chief, received this year’s award for “Supervisor of the Year.”
“Patrick is an excellent manager and leader,” Vail said, mentioning the amount of responsibility Kerr’s section oversees in light of the District’s most recent coastal projects. “That is no easy task, and he does this all with great humility and dedication.”
Dr. Shahidul Islam was named Galveston District’s “Innovator of the Year.” Islam’s work in setting up a technical plan to assist the Texas General Land Office with a regional flood planning study—an $85 million investment—was cited as “greatly enhancing” the state’s flood planning mitigation efforts.
“For me, this award is a very important one,” Williams said about the top honors for the District’s innovators. “The engineers and supervisors will ensure we get the work done, but the innovators are the ones who will help move us forward in the future.”
Jesus Galindo won the “STEM Volunteer of the Year” award. Galindo is heavily involved with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) activities in his community, specifically Lamar University’s School of Civil Engineering. His connections with students were cited as an example of STEM careers and service to others.
“This will undoubtedly create an increased interest in future careers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” Vail said, while gently reminding Galindo of what to do when he goes back to Lamar University.
Dr. Himangshu Das was recognized at the District’s “Engineer of the Year.” Das led the engineering effort behind the Coastal Texas Study, the largest study in USACE history.
“HD—as we call him—is undoubtedly our coastal engineering expert here at Galveston,” Vail said. “I can’t tell you how many times I get requests across the whole enterprise, and from the private sector, asking for his services. That’s the kind of level HD is at.”
Ron Wooten was named the 2022 Galveston District’s “Employee of the Year.” Wooten’s efforts as an outreach specialist were recognized across the District, Southwest Division Headquarters, various non-federal partners, Congressional members, and outside agencies. His positive and polite demeanor, responsiveness, and attentiveness to all the offices across the District were instrumental in his nomination, according to the award citation.
“Just to give you an idea of who Ron is, he just apologized to everyone on this stage for winning the award,” Williams said to the laughs and applause of the crowd in attendance.
Vail also recognized the district’s “Heroes of the Week” for the quarter:
- Ryan Schwartzengraber, for the week of April 1.
- Carlos Gomez, for the week of April 15.
- Pat Agee, for the week of April 29.
- Pamela Thibodeaux, for the week of May 13.
- Philip Hejduk, for the week of May 27.
- Michael Higgs, for the week of June 10.
The awards ceremony was followed by a townhall meeting where Reed officially introduced himself to the District and shared his philosophy on leadership and what he expects as the new division commander. [To read about the townhall, click here.]