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  4. U.S. Department of Homeland Security Recognizes 266 Employees at Award Ceremony in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Recognizes 266 Employees at Award Ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Release Date: October 25, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On October 24, 2023, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) hosted an awards ceremony at DHS Headquarters to celebrate the workforce. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas officiated the ceremony, where 266 employees received a Secretary’s Award in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the mission.

“Every day, the men and women of the Department respond to cyberattacks; save lives by sea and air; secure our nation’s borders and critical infrastructure; and deploy across the country to help Americans recover from disasters; and so much more. Their achievements aren’t only on the front lines, but also extend behind the scenes to modernize and streamline the Department’s processes in order to better relationships between the Department and the people we serve,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “It is the honor of my life to lead this Department and to recognize some of the extraordinary public servants who safeguard our nation and keep us all safe.”

The DHS Secretary’s Awards are an annual program that recognizes the extraordinary individual and collective achievements of the workforce. This year’s award recipients improved the efficiency of processing noncitizens at the Southwest Border, deployed across the country to respond to natural disasters, investigated cybercrime, created a new streamlined process for adjudicating asylum applications, safely and securely resettled nearly 100,000 evacuated Afghans in the United States, provided resources for organizations to enhance their cybersecurity resilience, established a process for Ukrainian nationals seeking refuge, secured the 2022 midterm elections, and demonstrated heroism by acting quickly and courageously to save lives in harrowing circumstances.

This year, DHS is holding ceremonies across the country, honoring over 1,300 employees. Earlier this year, Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas unveiled 12 priorities for the Department, including a commitment to champion the workforce and transform the employee experience.

“I am immensely grateful to receive the Secretary’s Award for Innovation in recognition of the work myself and my team have done to develop and apply novel solutions in the immigration process,” said Director for Border and Immigration Policy Daniel Delgado. “This cross-component effort is but one important step in our efforts to create safe, orderly, and lawful pathways for migration to the United States.”

“I work here at DHS at the office of Policy, and I received this award, along with my team members on the team responsible for implementing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act,” said Senior Policy Analyst in the Office of Policy Andrew Dolan. “It has really been the honor of a lifetime to work here at DHS, on this team in particular, getting to be a part of the U.S. Government’s effort to combat this scourge of forced labor in our economy.”

The 266 employees presented with awards at this ceremony for excellence and heroic actions include:

  • Secretary’s Exceptional Service Gold Medal Award 
    • Traumatic Incidents and Events Response (TIER) Team: As a result of the recent mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Traumatic Incidents and Events Response (TIER) Team deployed to the Uvalde Border Patrol Station to provide crisis management support in Uvalde. They also provided support to the local community members of Uvalde, Texas.
      • John Nyegaard, Timothy Finnegan, Ronota Henderson, Travis Inman, Barquette Kane, and Elliot Ortiz
  • Secretary’s Meritorious Service Silver Medal Award 
    • Hurricane Agnes Campaign: FEMA Region 3 recognized the 50th anniversary of Hurricane Agnes in an innovative and expansive outreach campaign to educate both the public and other emergency managers about the continued threat of inland flooding and how to be prepared
      • Mike Bilder, Maggie Dunn, Charlie Elison, Kia Evans-Watson, Kasia Fertala, Gerard Hammink, Amanda Hancher, Renee Hupp, Regina Majercak, Nicholas Morici, Lynne Newman, Jacqueline Robinson, Julie Sobota, and Melissa Wiehenstroer
    • Angela Meeks: Angela Meeks has significantly contributed to the strengthening of DHS/FEMA's disaster response/support missions. Angela leads a branch with 6 sections and 62 assigned personnel who executed over $33M in contract actions for FY21 in support of all disasters. Her leadership, resourcefulness, and diligence in recruiting, hiring, and retaining superior skilled personnel enabled the return of superior public service.
      • Angela Meeks
    • Operation Allies Welcome Team: FEMA Region 3 provided tactical-level communication and coordination amongst local, state, federal, and volunteer organizations.
      • Maria Applewhite, Richard Auletta, Mirana Berrio, John Bonanno, Daniel Brewer, Patrice Brown, Jason Burroughs, John Caton, Justice Colbert, Dennis Cribben, Scott Davidson, Corey Demuro, Diane Dooley, Charles Elison, Kia Evans, Catherine Fan, Christopher Foye, Latoya Frett, Amory Hillengas, Kerry Holmes, Lilian Hutchinson, Stephen Jefferson, Tara Johnson, Jeffrey Knarr, Edward Levy, Charles Maltbie, Mark O’Hanlon, Timothy Pheil, Alexas Pickron, Richard Polley, Elizabeth Ranson, Victoria Sasek, Bryan Sizemore, Caleb Taylor, Leon Tucker, Jorge Vidal, Danielle Wilson, Thomas Wilson, Vanessa Winans, Katherine Yasser, David Zarnick, and Robert Zuker
    • The Operation Allies Welcome (OAW) Unified Coordination Group: The OAW Unified Coordination Group worked to coordinate the U.S. government’s effort to welcome and resettle Afghans following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. This team helped shift the U.S. government resettlement system from handling fewer than 10,000 refugee resettlement cases per year to a projected 100,000 in a year. The OAW Unified Coordination Group team went above and beyond to serve those who stood alongside the United States.  
      • Seth Brugger, Bruce Burkley, Lisa Donaldson, Marc Koblentz, April Mears, Marguerite Mills, Brian Puchalsky, Chris Reames, Chris Saw, Jodi Silcox, and Toni Swanson
    • Peer Support Program: In 2022, FEMA developed a multi-tier mental health program that has proven to be an essential component to ensuring the mental health and wellbeing of FEMA employees and maintaining their mission readiness. The program incorporated a Peer Support Program, direct crisis intervention (by licensed mental health professionals), and workforce training (e.g., Trauma and Adjustment, Anxiety and Coping, Demystifying Depression, etc.). Within four months of creation, the program was able to successfully recruit and train 100 employees and start providing nationwide support to their fellow colleagues.
      • Megan Corley, Zachary Kitrie, Andre Pennardt
    • Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act Implementation Team: The office of Policy spearheaded the U.S. government implementation of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA).  This DHS team led the Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force to establish whole-of-government policies and procedures to protect U.S. commerce from gross human rights violations and established the first-ever, DHS-led entity list which identifies entities that use or source goods or labor from Xinjiang. The team coordinated at both leadership and staff levels across all agencies of the Task Force, and extensively with external stakeholders, to issue a Federal Register Notice, hold a public hearing, and ultimately publish the UFLPA Strategy and Entity List ahead of schedule.
      • Eric Choy, Bruce Coulliette, David Hampton, Kelly Johnson, Lesleyanne Kessler, Elva Muneton, Gregory Olsavsky, Emily Simon, Patrick Bruce, Amy Bunk, John Havranek, Jessica Yarnes, Konrad Batog, Andrew Dolan, Cynthia Echeverria, Tasha Hippolyte, Katie Lee, Rachel O’Meara, Ryan Olden, Tabitha Padilla, Hannah Peck, John Pickel, and Shireen Yousef
  • Secretary’s Award for Leadership Excellence:
    • Christina Chesterfield: Ms. Chesterfield served on two highly challenging details this past year, providing exemplary leadership as both the Acting Deputy Director of the Transportation Analysis Division (TAD) and the Acting Director of the Vetting Analysis Division (VAD). In these roles, Ms. Chesterfield gained the trust and confidence of peers and leadership across I&A, leading two high-profile Divisions through a period defined by challenges and major transition.
      • Christina Chesterfield
  • Secretary’s Award for Innovation
    • Advance Travel Authorization Team: This cross-component team collectively designed, developed, and implemented a new process to enable individuals who have U.S.-based supporters to be considered for and granted authorization to travel to the United States and seek parole at the port of entry. This innovative process required DHS to build a new system, and fuse new workflows across components, which bolstered the vetting process and provided an orderly procedure to allow those seeking parole to receive travel authorization and come to the United States. This new approach has since been adopted to address growing humanitarian crises and surging irregular migration in the Western Hemisphere.
      • Matthew Davie, Katrina Deyo, Monte Hawkins, Matthew Kim, Matthew Davies, Adina Pantella, and Fran Swearengen, and Lori Vislocky, Esther Allred, Andrew Fausett, Abil Haq, Katherine Ruhs, Casie Antalis, Daniel Delgado, Ihsan Gunduz, Adam Hunter, Michael Huston, Morgan Plumer. Kathryn Anderson, Manpreet Dhanjal, Robert Mace, Avideh Moussavian, and Shannon Slattery
    • Detention Oversight Division: The Office of the Immigration Detention Ombudsman (OIDO), Detention Oversight Division (DO) developed and deployed an entirely new remote office specifically designed to be “complementary” with existing immigration detention oversight functions to enhance the capabilities of DHS Components. Based on the significant field experience of its staff in assessing the provisions of medical care, DO issued an Ombudsman Alert, entitled “Critical Medical Understaffing on the Border” designed to address a critical shortage of medical services at U.S. Custom and Border Protection facilities.
      • Akiyia Baines-Jackson, Christopher Brundage, Marjorie Ceant, Susan Collins, Amber Corneiro, Melissa Corpancho, Adam Griffee, Joshua Grimm, Richard McCaffrey, MaryEllen Meymarian, Richard Murphy, Adam Griffee, Joshua Grimm,  Melissa Corpancho, Melba Padilla, Emily Pukuma, Chiara Rodriguez, Chiara Rodriguez, Edwin Rosado, Maciek Soboczynski, George Sullivan, and Angela Williams
    • Migrant Models Integration (MMI) Team: OHS S&T's Migrant Models Integration (MMI) team developed a statistics and analysis tool that has enabled decision makers across OHS to evaluate scenarios and make better policy and resource decisions regarding immigration and humanitarian aid. The MMI Tool provides analyses of immigration scenarios at the Southwest Border and evaluates policy and resource options, as well as courses of action under consideration by operators and decision makers. The MMI team collaborated with the Office of Immigration Statistics to develop the Enforcement Throughput Model (ETM), which provided OHS with forecasts for near- and long-term migrant encounters, releases, removals, and projected bed space requirements, allowing OHS and White House leadership to understand the impact of proposed changes to migrant policy and operations.
      • Lorraine Castillo, Damian Garcia, Brandy Urbine, Debra Rode.
    • R6 Floodplain Management and Insurance (FMI) Data Analytics Team: FEMA Region 6 Floodplain Management and Insurance Branch Data Analytics Team created Community Profiles which provide strategic insight and data transparency to state local and tribal partners. This analysis allows mitigators to uniquely view communities and neighborhoods in several lenses to include holistic flood loss, equity, and climate change.
      • Donald Broadwater
    • Tri-Bureau Digital A-File: The tri-bureau digital A-file team successfully coordinated extensive systems integrations between CBP, ICE, and USCIS to enable the creation of digital A-files at the Southwest Border. This achievement will transform the manual and resource intensive paper A-file process and result in significant time and resource savings desperately needed due to surges at the Border.
      • Tawada Adams, Erik Aubin, Emilia Bakopoulos, Delorean Dhillon, Leigh Erbe, Mark Ficco, Adriane Harris, Eric Lafferty, Emily Lattanzi, Matthew Lightner, Brian Lorimor, Courtney Ray, Kenneth Simpson, Jason Thompson, Kelly Tumminelli, Timothy Tyler, Pargat Bajwa, Dustin Bell, Steven Chen, Kamillah Connolly, Madelyn Dempsey, Bobby Jerath, Manuel Ramirez, Christopher St. John, Jose Villafane, Kevin Wetzel, Jeffrey Wilson, Kim Kern, Penny Pastiva, Martha Rosa, Alice Tam, Dana Barber, Rafeal Castro, Yentzu Chen, Andrea Freiberger, Rudy Gomes, David Jennings, Paul Johnson, Ryan Koder, Damien Long, Paul Johnson, Ryan Koder, Gil McManus, Rob Paulette, Marques Richardson, Ron Sartini, Nick Steele, Tae Um, and Larysa Yarmolenko
  • Secretary’s Award for Team Excellence
    • Disaster Information Systems Clearinghouse (DISC): The Disaster Information Systems Clearinghouse (DISC) team provided an extraordinary amount of disaster Information Technology assets to the FEMA Incident Management Workforce supporting disaster survivors and communities from more than 70 Disaster Support Locations. With a manning shortage due to operating throughout the COVID pandemic, the members of the team rallied together to process more than 67,000 pieces of equipment through the DISC, which is more than double the amount processed through the warehouse in a "normal" year.
      • Randall Lupton, Christy Mizell, Daniel Orminski, James Ruth, Kathryn Simpson, and Jesse Torrey
    • Ethos Training Development Team: The Ethos Training Development team was integral to designing and producing the Professional-Public Service Ethos program. This program delivers on the Secretary's intent to ensure the foundation of our workforce development focuses on what it means to be a public servant and to hold ourselves to the highest standards of honor, integrity, and ethical conduct to earn and protect the public trust.
      • Donna Gordan, Michelle Nurton, and Kristen Jaekel
    • H-65 Conversion/Sustainment Program: The H-65 Conversion/Sustainment Program is making significant contributions to the Coast Guard's fleet by converting and delivering the more capable MH-65E helicopter and associated logistics that are providing aircrews the platform, tools, and training to successfully execute their missions and return safely. Mission readiness and accomplishment are the measures that matter most, and in just the past year the MH-65E has allowed more than 200 people in peril to survive, with 127 of those directly hoisted or carried into MH-65Es and another 81 assisted in their rescues by other assets. That's a person rescued almost every other day.
      • Michael Dubinsky, Traci Gerber, Kim Hebron, Jay Hoffman, Laura King, Sharita Leathers, Michael Mauro, Monica Mende, Edith Nazario, Keith Puzder, Kristine Red Elk, Sarah Richardson, James Slapak, Gabriel Soll, Zachary West, and Adam Wolfe
    • Immigrant Military Members and Veterans Initiative Team: On July 2, 2021, the DHS and the VA Secretaries jointly announced, the Immigrant Military Members and Veterans Initiative (IMMVI). This initiative was established to demonstrate our support of our country’s service members, veterans, and their families. Each member of the IMMVI demonstrated empathy and kindness to veterans who, in some cases, felt a sense of hopelessness and despair. They cared about the outcomes and never lost sight of the higher mission. The actions of every member of the IMMVI team represented the truest and deepest sense of the meaning of the words, "Thank you for your service.
      • Carrie Anderson, Tzaili Quinones Mitchell, Daniel Batichon,Melina Jackson, Norma Jordan, Mark Murphy, Gregorio Perez, Cammilla Wamsley, Cara Behar, Vashon Citizen, Wendu Gonzalez, Ellen Hess, Mark Ludeking, Patricia McKenzie, and Michelle Wong
    • IT Support for Operation Allies Refuge/Operation Allies Welcome: In August 2021, the U.S. Government began a humanitarian rescue operation, Operation Allies Refuge/Operation Allies Welcome (OAR/OAW), of American citizens and Afghan nationals from Afghanistan.
      • Angela Bartow, Leah Carter, Baibhav Devkota, Michelle Kerchner, Benjamin Lanier, Lindsay McCarthy, Kendra Riley, Matthew Sarra, and Christopher Wurst
    • Litigation Modernization Team: The Litigation Modernization Team is a government model for transformational change. Composed of staff from several program offices across CBP, the team leveraged subject matter skill sets to achieve innovative efficiencies to better handle litigation and information disclosure. A true change agent, the Litigation Modernization Team's work has resulted in millions of dollars of cost avoidance and facilitated the use of automation to save hundreds of hours of manual work.
      • Tahani Afaneh, Jacqueline Bettis, Leah Carter, Jim Czerwinski, Elaine Dismuke, Tracy Dolphin, Gregory Moore, Stephanie Muffett, Marc Salvia, Christie Sharpe, Louisa Slocum, and Stephanie West
  • Secretary’s Champion of Equity Award:
    • Office of Trade Task Force for Women: In its first year, the Office of Trade (OT) Task Force for Women set the standard for achieving gender equity and equality at U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP), laying the foundation for a long-term effort to positively impact OT culture and ensure greater inclusiveness and diversity. The Task Force raised awareness and educated both OT and the greater CBP workforce on important gender equity issues. These issues include women's health, gender bias, domestic violence, sexual assault, and more.
      • Keisha, Alvarenga, Tameka Barder, Renne Caesar, Kareen Campbell, Joy Marie Virga, Hannah Waldhorn, and Kristin Weaver
  • The Secretary awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the Department’s highest civilian award, to Janene Corrado.

DHS has the third largest workforce of any federal department, behind the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Department is home to more than 92,000 sworn law enforcement officers, the greatest number of law enforcement officers of any department in the federal government. DHS has committed to increasing the representation of women in law enforcement or related occupations at DHS to 30% by 2023. Over 54,000 veterans, or nearly 21% of the workforce, continue serving their country by working at DHS.

DHS operational components interact more frequently on a daily basis with the American public than any other federal department, from travelers moving through air, land, and sea ports of entry, to businesses importing goods into the country, to immigrants applying for services. To learn more about the impact DHS makes every day, visit: DHS.gov/TodayDHSWill

Last year, DHS launched a hiring initiative recruiting hundreds of experts in digital user experience and design for the Customer Experience Program. DHS is working to improve the overall experience for those accessing government services and benefits by accepting mobile driver’s licenses, reducing processing times for immigration benefits, and simplifying FEMA policies when applying for assistance.

For the full list of awardees, visit DHS.gov/2023-Secretarys-Awards.


Last Updated: 11/07/2023
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