USACE honors key employees

Published 10:09 am Thursday, July 16, 2015

Three employees with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi Valley Division were named recipients of the Ernest P. Blankenship Awards during the division’s annual awards ceremony.

The Blankenship awards were established in 1987 to remember and honor the commitment, dedication and knowledge of the longtime Mississippi Valley Division executive assistant who died in 1973.

They are among the highest honorary awards presented to Mississippi Valley Division employees by the local commander and cover three categories: engineer/scientist, professional and technical/administrative.

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The recipients included:

• Brian Chewning received the Engineer/Scientist Award for his performance while serving as deputy for the Lower District Support Team, with primary responsibility as the division’s point of contact for the Memphis, Vicksburg and New Orleans districts.

He also served as the senior program manager responsible for directing, leading and coordinating all activities in the lower three districts that required Mississippi Valley Division and/or higher U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) action.

He helped advance planning initiatives for Calcasieu Lock, West Shore Lake Pontchartrain, Southwest Coastal, Quiver River, and Memphis Metro feasibility studies, and led reviews for the approval of numerous decision documents, and provided guidance for review and development of the New Orleans District’s Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System decision documents to seek mitigation and armoring contracts.

• Bob Anderson received the Professional Award for his work as Mississippi Valley Division and Mississippi River Commission public affairs officer.

He assisted with the design, implementation and deployment of an online planning tool that allowed project managers and public affairs officers across the Corps to create communication plans based on the strategic communication process and used it to create or improve more than 20 communication plans for key Mississippi Valley Division projects, including topics related to aging infrastructure, invasive species, drought, flooding and hurricane response.

Anderson served on the Corps headquarters national steering committee for public affairs, and helped create and manage the Public Affairs Rising Star Program for promising new leaders in the public affairs career field.

He and his team worked with the Mississippi Valley Division commander to improve communication for key projects and programs and helped the division leadership share the division’s critical issue narratives with members of congress and other influential regional leaders within the Mississippi River watershed.

• Cindy Simmons received the Administrative Award for her duties as administrative assistant for the Business Management and Business Technical divisions.

She was the only administrative employee who supported two separate divisions, which included maintaining property accountability, requisitioning supplies and services, maintaining a government purchase card, preparing travel orders and vouchers, initiating personnel actions, preparing budget documents and ensuring proper records management.

When the division implemented new time and attendance procedures, she ensured all employees in both divisions were trained and ready to enter their time when the new system became operational. She also helped new employees make transition into their jobs.

The division presented its Woman of the Year award to Tonya Acuff, chief of the Regulatory Division, who served as a key regional leader in guiding development of standardized processes to improve regional consistency in the regulatory program, and reset standards for general regulatory funding within the region (the first Corps division to complete this action).

She also served as the division’s sustainability program manager, and was instrumental in selecting the first Corps of Engineers region-wide energy savings center.

Other award recipients included Alicia K. Bounds, procurement analyst in contracting; Katie S. Shows, finance and accounting officer in the Business Resource Division; Terry S. Smith, deputy chief and regional strategic planner for the Business Management Division; and Scott Whitney, regional flood risk manager in the Operations Division, who received the Department of the Army Achievement Medal for Civilian Service.

Twenty-seven employees representing 585 years of federal service were also recognized with length of service certificates ranging from 5 to 40 years of service.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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