Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

In Honor of Public Service Recognition Week, Sen. Kaufman Recognizes Great Federal Employees: Anh Duong, Alan Estevez, Riaz Awan, Alyson McFarland and Robert Rutherford

May 5, 2010

This week, once again, we celebrate Public Service Recognition Week.

Public Service Recognition Week provides us all a chance to reflect upon the contribution made by those who serve in government.

All throughout the week, the Partnership for Public Service, a leading nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to honoring those who work in government, will be hosting informative programs across Washington.

One of the most exciting moments during the week is the announcement of this year's finalists for the distinguished Service to America Medals, or ``Sammies.'' This year, once again, the crop of finalists is outstanding, and the winners will be announced at the Partnership's annual Service to America Gala in September.

During last year's Public Service Recognition Week, I delivered the first in a series of weekly speeches from this desk honoring great Federal employees. Now, 1 year later, I am proud to continue this effort today by recognizing my sixtieth great Federal employee, along with a few others who have won Service to America Medals in the past.

Anh Duong: Chemical Engineer, Naval Criminal Investigative Service

Anh Duong has worked for the Naval Surface Warfare Center, in Indian Head, MD, for 27 years. But her relationship with the U.S. Navy goes back farther. She came to this country after escaping Vietnam as a teenager, having fled by helicopter to a Navy vessel off-shore. After coming to the United States, Anh obtained a degree in chemical engineering and computer science from the University of Maryland.

After graduation, Anh began working at the Naval Surface Warfare Center as a chemical engineer, and from 1991-1999, she oversaw the Center's advanced development programs in high explosives. From 1999-2002, she worked as the head of its programs to develop undersea weapons.

After the September 11 attacks, when our Armed Forces were given the mission to defeat the Taliban, it was Anh who was asked to develop a thermobaric bomb that could be used to reach deep into Afghanistan's mountain caves, where Taliban fighters were hiding. She and her team were only given 100 days to prepare such a weapon for use. They did it in 67 days.

Since 2006, she has been working with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to create mobile battlefield forensics labs to help quickly identify those behind terrorist attacks. Anh Duong was awarded the Service to America Medal for National Security in 2007.

Alan Estevez: Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Military Readiness

Another dedicated Federal employee, who won the Service to America National Security medal in 2005, is Alan Estevez. Alan is the Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Military Readiness.

The old adage says that ``an army runs on its stomach.'' In fact, a modern military runs on much more than that. There are thousands of pieces of equipment and supplies that need to be transported in and out of an area of operations. Alan has been working since 1981 to make our military logistics system more efficient.

Over the past several years, Alan has overseen efforts to implement radio frequency identification, or ``RFID'' technology into our military supply chain. He saw that companies like Wal-Mart were using RFID to track products with a high degree of accuracy and to reduce waste.

Alan's work over the past three decades has saved the military, and the taxpayers, countless dollars and has helped ensure that our troops have the supplies they need to fulfill their missions.

Riaz Awan: Attaché for the Department of Energy

Another Service to America medalist I want to highlight today is Riaz Awan. He served as the Energy Department's attaché in the Ukraine when he won a Sammie for his work to secure the site of the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown.

Riaz won the 2003 Service to America Medal for International Affairs, which recognized the several years he spent living near the site of the Chernobyl disaster and working with the local communities to mitigate its social and economic impact. As part of his work, Riaz oversaw the construction of a new concrete shelter over the former Chernobyl reactor, one of the largest and most complex engineering projects in the world at the time.

Additionally, his work on nonproliferation in the Ukraine has helped prevent terrorists from getting their hands on nuclear materials leftover from the fall of the Soviet Union.

Alyson McFarland: Program Development Officer at the Department of State

In the same year that Riaz won his award, the Service to America Medal for Call to Service, which recognizes new Federal employees, was won by Alyson McFarland of the State Department.

Alyson had only worked at the State Department for 3 years when she found herself in the middle of a tense diplomatic situation. She was working as a program development officer at our consulate in the northern Chinese city of Shenyang, near the North Korean border. One summer day, in 2002, three North Korean refugees jumped over the consulate wall, seeking asylum.

Alyson was one of the only Korean-speakers working in the consulate, and she quickly became instrumental in communicating with the refugees and authorities from the Chinese and South Korean governments. By playing a key role in supporting the negotiations with the refugees and government officials, she helped enable the asylum-seekers to reach freedom in South Korea. At the time of the incident, she was only 28 years old.

Robert Rutherford: Group Supervisor for the U.S. Customs Service

The fifth and final story I want to share today is about the winner of the 2002 Service to America Medal for Justice and Law Enforcement. Special Agent Robert Rutherford won it for his work at the U.S. Customs Service, which has since been renamed as U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Robert served as the Group Supervisor for the Customs Service's Air-Marine Investigations Group in Miami, and his primary job was to keep illegal drugs from reaching American shores.

Starting in 1999, Robert began noticing a sharp rise in the amount of cocaine and other narcotics being smuggled into the country from Haiti, which was contributing to a rise in local crime.

On his own initiative, Robert worked with his colleagues to form Operation River Sweep to block the Miami River as a trafficking route for drugs. As part of the operation, he led a first-of-its-kind intra-agency task force under the direction of the Customs Service. Between 1999 and 2001, Operation River Sweep made over 120 arrests and prevented over 13,000 pounds of cocaine from reaching Florida communities.

As Robert's efforts met with success, the local crime rate dropped. In order to stay afloat, the drug traffickers adapted their methods, hoping to outsmart the Customs Service.

However, in 2001, Robert launched a second task force, Operation River Walk, involving over 300 law enforcement personnel from local, State, and Federal agencies. This second task force arrested over 230 trafficking suspects and seized over 15,000 pounds of cocaine and cannabis.

Conclusion

Though the details are different in each case, all five of these stories about Service to America winners send the same message. It is a message of service above self, of motivation to carry out the people's work.

When I first spoke about Federal employees a year ago, I noted the importance of the oath taken by all those who serve in Federal Government. The spirit of that oath, to ``support and defend the Constitution'' and ``faithfully discharge the duties of the office,'' undergirds the service of every man and woman who has worked as a Federal employee since 1789.

Our work in Congress today is the drafting of a blueprint for recovery, security, and prosperity. The task of building and maintaining these edifices we design will belong to the dedicated and industrious civil servants upon whom all Americans daily rely.

They are the regulators who will restore stability to our financial system.

They are the lawyers who will prosecute terrorists detained overseas.

They are the doctors and nurses who will care for our returning veterans.

They are the aid workers who spread hope and healing around the world.

They are the instruments by which we, the people, secure the ``blessings of liberty.''

As we mark Public Service Recognition Week, let us all make an effort to thank those who have chosen the path of public service. They are all truly great Federal employees.

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