The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Galveston District (SWG) held its Fiscal Year 2024 First Quarter Army Professional Awards Ceremony and Townhall at the Jadwin Building in Galveston, Texas, Dec. 14, 2023. More than 150 district employees attended the ceremony and townhall in person, and many more virtually.
Col. Rhett Blackmon, USACE SWG commander, began the awards by giving commander’s coins to several district employees for their stand-out efforts during the first quarter. Honoring someone with a commander’s coin is a way for the district commander to show their appreciation for a phenomenal job. More than just a ‘thank you’ or a pat on the back, the commander’s coin is something tangible to remember the occasion.
Recognized for their assistance in planning SWG Regulatory Division’s Peer Awards were:
- Kevin Mannie
- Lee Hardy
- Amanda Baker
Other awardees recognized for their work in their respective duties included:
- Otto Adkins and David Orr, for their actions in repairing and replacing ‘T-heads’ at their project’s mooring basins.
- Paul Hamilton and Molly Ross, for their involvement in the University of Houston Technology Career Fair, which helped evaluate potential students for recruitment into USACE.
- Desire Lege, for her efforts as a supervisory civil engineer and performing the duties of contracting officer for the camera and security upgrade contract at the Port Arthur Resident Office.
- Michael Musgrove, Ron Wooten, and Tina Ybarra, for their support of the inaugural SWG Office Of Counsel’s Civil Works Master Class.
All of a sudden, the ceremony was interrupted by the distant sound of jingling bells and barking. Santa Claus emerged—clad in a USACE-issued hard hat—along with Bobber the Water Safety Dog, spreading holiday cheer, delivering treats, reminding every to wear their life jackets, and congratulating all the awardees and SWG employees who made this year’s “nice list.”
“I want to say, ‘thanks,’ to all of you for the hard work you do throughout the year as Champions of the Gulf Coast,” Santa said. “Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas to all and ESSAYONS!”
The district then recognized the following ‘Champions of the Coast’ with a certificate of appreciation:
- Dennis James, for his exceptional expertise in providing technical support in PC management, printer installations, and event assistance.
- James Strickland, for his exceptional contributions and customer service as a mail specialist at the Jadwin Building’s mail office.
Blackmon then gave on-the-spot awards to:
- Cecilia Askins, for her ‘can do’ attitude and willingness to take on complex projects, mentor team members, and a going above and beyond to assist her team.
- Gina Brown, Andria Davis, Geoffrey Orange, Jill Wiggins, and Callie Wooten for going above and beyond their normal duties to assist in the programmatic general permit backlog data entry effort from August to October 2023.
- Jacquelynn Burkey, for her outstanding contributions to the SWG Resource Management Office.
- John Davidson, for his outstanding contributions in leading the district’s jurisdictional determination project delivery team and representing USACE in pending litigation.
- Sean Dillard, for going above his normal duties and taking on two stagnant permit applications, working down the district’s permit application backlog.
- Shawn Hillen and Diana Ray for their efforts in executing SWG Regulatory Division’s Plant Identification Course.
- Bobby Petty, for his efforts as a strategic outreach specialist for SWG’s Mega Projects Division.
- Arnette Rose, for her critical role in closing out cost share records and helping transfer funding between advance accounts in order to execute a large contract.
- Pamela Thibodeaux, for her efforts in ensuring more than 100 Freedom of Information Act requests and successfully managing her division’s government purchase card program.
One Champion also received some time off:
- Jacquelynn Burkey, for her willingness to take on special projects and initiatives to improve resource management processes.
Blackmon then presented several employees with a certificate of achievement:
- SWG Regulatory Division’s Gina Brown, Leslie Clift, Shawn Hillen, Kevin Mannie, Colin McCormack, Tasha Metz, and Kara Vick were recognized for their contributions to planning and executing the annual regulatory outreach event.
- Dennis James and Austin Kim were recognized for their technical support of the SWG Collective Bargaining Agreement training sessions.
- Jory Neal-Braswell was commended for her efforts as an administrative assistant for the Engineering and Construction Division and proactively implementing improved administrative procedures within the division.
The district commander then recognized SWG’s Critical Public Facilities (CPF) team that deployed to Maui, Hawaii, in support of the recovery efforts following the Lahaina Wildfires, with the Army Civilian Service Medal. Recognized were:
- Shamekia Chapman
- Danny Cruz
- Alicia Evans
- Quinton Johnson
- Adrian Ramos
- David Solomon,
- Adam Tallman
- Heng-Wei Tsai
- Jaclyn Yocum
- Erin Zetterstrom
- Judy Collier
The Maui CPF deployed to Maui on a mission to design and build a temporary elementary school. The team solicited and awarded a $53.7 million contract for construction of the school. Pono Aina Management, an 8(a) Native Hawaiian Organization, was awarded the contract on Nov. 4, 2023.
“Knowing that many of the men and women working on this project were directly impacted by the fires makes it even more special,” said SWG’s Elizabeth McCarty, the CPF team’s mission manager, in a recent USACE news release. “This has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding projects I have ever worked on. As a former teacher, this mission immediately tugged on my heartstrings.”
Also recognized with a Civilian Service Medal were:
- Brent Granier and Adina Ortiz for their support of the Houston Resident Office as a quality assurance representatives.
- Sonja Zindars, for her work as the Hydrographic Survey Section chief, greatly improving the sections operational efficiency.
The district then awarded several Champions with the Army Civilian Service Commendation Medal. The Civilian Service Commendation Medal is awarded for commendable service or achievement. Employees who have a past record of excellence, normally recognized by the previous receipt of one or more honorary or performance awards. Receiving the Army Civilian Service Commendation Medal were:
- Cecily Solomon, Elizabeth McCarty, and Brian Murphy, for their efforts in leading the CPF Maui team.
- Maria Rodriguez, for her exemplary federal government service from July 1984 to December 2023.
- Lucille Smith, for her exemplary federal government service from September 1983 to December 2023.
SWG’s Internal Communications Lead Luke Waack was then recognized for an award he received at his previous command. Waack was named the U.S. Air Force’s Pacific Air Forces’ 2021 Outstanding Communication Civilian (Category 1). He also received the “Civilian of the Quarter” award for Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
Blackmon then awarded four Champions for their recognition as “Heroes of the Month”:
- Trevor Welsh, the “Hero of the Month” for September 2023, for his outstanding performance as the district’s resident photographer and videographer.
- Paul Cox, the “Hero of the Month” for October 2023, for his expertise in analyzing geospatial data to help improve channel navigation.
- Bill Donlon, the “Hero of the Month” for November 2023, for his help in awarding the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway West Galveston Bay Barrier Island contract.
- Carlos Tate, the “Hero of the Month” for December 2023, for his management of the Houston Ship Channel Improvement Project.
Next up was recognition for Army professionals who reached a career milestone.
Recognized for completing five years of federal service were:
- Patricia Delmas
- Antoinette Fonseca
- Daniel Key
- Micaela Kinsey
- Rodney Lumampao
- Stakely McConnell
- Julia Ruty
- Roger Stillick
- Juan Vargas
- Brian Wilson
Recognized for completing 10 years of federal service were:
- Desire Lege
- Roger Stillick
- Timmy Walls
Recognized for 15 years of service:
- Maxwell Agnew
- Kyle Donlevy
Recognized for 20 years of service:
- Alicia Evans
- Robert Garcia
- Jose Medina
Recognized for 25 years of service:
- Tammy Barreras
- Jose Castro-Rivera
- Darrell Johnson
Recognized for 30 years of service:
- Joseph Chun
- Daniel Williams
- Nancy Young
Recognized for 35 years of service:
- Lisa Gast
- Vernon Griffin
- David Case
- Robert Heinly
- Willie Hodges
Recognized for 40 years of service:
- Patricia Agee
- Donald Carelock
Recognized for 50 years of service:
To close the ceremony, the district then recognized Maria Rodriguez and Lucille Smith, who will both retire from federal service Dec. 31, 2023.
The award ceremony was followed by a townhall meeting.