1. Long ago, the Florida Everglades were a vast, free-flowing river of grass, extending throughout central and southern Florida. It supported many diverse species of plants, fish, and animals. Over the past half century, however, over half—4 million acres—of this precious natural resource has been lost to agriculture and development, threatening the area's biodiversity and resulting in a severe shortage of clean and healthy water.

    As the Department of the Army's principal legal advisor on environmental and natural resources matters, Earl Stockdale is the “man behind the plan” for restoring the Florida Everglades.

    Stockdale was integrally involved in developing a multibillion dollar plan through which the Army Corps of Engineers, working with the State of Florida and several other federal agencies, would preserve and protect this cherished ecosystem. Congress enacted this innovative plan—known as the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP)—in 2000, and Stockdale has led the charge to achieve the legislation's intended goal. But the effort has been challenging.

    Since the plan was passed, Stockdale has been responsible for ensuring its success. The goal: to hammer out cost-sharing agreements to help guide the financing of more than $1 billion in restoration-related design and construction activities, and to develop and finalize comprehensive regulations to guide the planning and implementation of the $8 billion Everglades restoration project for the next 30 years.

    To do so, Stockdale brought together a large cadre of diverse organizations—the White House Council on Environmental Quality, federal agencies, state and local organizations, and environmental groups—and sought out common ground. He also has worked closely with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve legal disputes that threaten the implementation of the CERP. As his colleagues agree, it's been a task that only a person with Stockdale's level of determination, expertise, thoughtfulness and grace could muster.

    Stockdale also built one of the most effective legal teams in the Army, managing an office staff that responds to more than 2,500 requests for legal opinions each year, and oversees the legal services provided by over 500 federal attorneys practicing in the environmental, natural resources, and real estate arenas.

    In the words of Darin Johnson, the Army lawyer who has been mentored by Stockdale and nominated him for this award, “Earl Stockdale is an inspirational leader who brings out the best in people by empowering them through education and encouragement…He is recognized universally as a mentor and consensus builder, whose expertise is called upon when the most difficult problems require solution.”

    Johnson says that Stockdale also recognizes the importance of passing on a legacy of public service, teamwork and commitment to those wishing to follow in his footsteps: “He generously shares his professional expertise with all his associates and especially with young attorneys in the office.”

    Stockdale has received many federal awards for his significant accomplishments and last year was awarded the Distinguished Executive Service Award by the President of the United States, the highest honor given to federal employees.

    Thanks to Earl Stockdale, the citizens of Florida can count on a clean water supply and adequate flood protection, and the citizens of our nation can count on the successful restoration of one of America's most prized national treasures.

    # vimeo.com/8603222 Uploaded 141 Plays 0 Comments
  2. Every time a commercial airliner takes off at an American airport, the safety of its crew and passengers symbolizes the work of Paul Polski.

    Polski spent 12 years heading an 80-person task force at a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) counter-terrorism lab in southern New Jersey that developed innovative products that detect concealed weapons before they can be brought onto commercial aircraft and others that lessen the damage to a plane caused by explosives. Polski's task force was the world's only lab dedicated solely to developing advanced counter-terror technologies.

    Over 7,000 of these security devices have been installed in 443 American airports since September 11, 2001. Among them is the digital Threat Image Protection (TIP) system, which essentially inserts fake images of weapons in the view screen of luggage screeners. Since the incidence of suspicious objects either checked-in or carried on to planes is so low, TIP allows for constant on-the-job training that will keep baggage screeners on their toes.

    Another of Polski's lab's innovations discreetly “sniffs out” traces of explosive material on travelers and their baggage. Polski's team also used fast CAT scan-based x-ray technology to automatically inspect checked baggage. In addition to American deployments, thousands of these devices have been purchased and deployed by over 50 countries for airports around the world since the mid-1990s.

    The FAA laboratory was created in November 1990, just two years after Pan Am 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, destroyed by a bomb believed to have been placed on the aircraft in West Germany by Libyan terrorists, killing all 259 people on board. One innovation developed by Polski's lab might have saved their lives: hardened luggage containers designed to absorb the impact of an explosion without disrupting a flight.

    In addition to developing new technology, Polski is also responsible for collaborative projects with private industry to get the machinery built in mass quantities and deployed to airports and other transportation centers. A key element of Polski's strategy was to maintain a strong industrial base for this security equipment in case there was an urgent need for accelerated production. The events of September 11 proved that strategy to be very sound.

    Polski is a 1958 graduate of the United States Naval Academy and was a Navy pilot in Vietnam. He began his federal service at the FAA in 1990 and led the counter-terrorism lab from its infancy until August 2002. He is now chief of staff for the Assistant Administrator and Chief Technology Officer of the Transportation Security Administration in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

    At the FAA, he was the architect who brought the right people together to accomplish a supremely important task. “He basically built this lab from the ground up, and developed a core of expertise that did not exist,” said Susan Hallowell, a former coworker and the lab's technical director. “Before this lab, you could get a bomb into any airport. Now you can't.”

    With Polski's help, what might sound simple could actually save countless lives in the event of the unthinkable.

    # vimeo.com/8603104 Uploaded 296 Plays 0 Comments
  3. The Korean peninsula is the only remaining flashpoint of the Cold War. Fifty years after an armistice stopped the fighting between the Chinese-backed north and the American-backed south, the region still exists in an uneasy peace. During the summer of 2002, a 28-year old State Department program development officer played a key role in resolving a tense diplomatic crisis involving all four nations.

    When three North Korean refugees jumped over the wall of the U.S. Consulate in Shenyang, China, seeking escape from their troubled nation, it captured worldwide attention and touched off several days of negotiations among the highest levels of the U.S., Chinese and South Korean governments. Alyson McFarland was instrumental in resolving the incident as one of the consulate's only Korean-speakers and an expert in Chinese-North Korean affairs. She was among the first to interview the refugees and later supported the diplomatic negotiations that eventually allowed the three North Korean men to fly to freedom in South Korea. The U.S. Consul General in Shenyang called her an “invaluable asset to the Consulate” during the crisis.

    McFarland was a valuable asset in other ways as well. She took photographs of the Chinese-North Korean border region that were lauded by the State Department's Office of Intelligence and Research, and served as a member of the U.S. delegation to a high-level United Nations discussion on arms control and disarmament issues. Possessing exceptional knowledge of nuclear arms control matters, McFarland managed a broad and difficult portfolio of responsibilities and played a critical role in coordinating two U.S.-sponsored resolutions.

    As a child, McFarland dreamed of becoming a U.S. diplomat. She fulfilled that desire to work in public service when she became a State Department employee at age 26. Not only is she a dedicated public servant, she is also one of the “best and brightest.” McFarland earned her master's degree from the University of Hawaii, where she was accepted as a fellow in a congressionally-sponsored program designed to develop future leaders in Asia-Pacific affairs. She later joined the federal government as a Presidential Management Intern, an elite program that attracts the nation's top scholars to federal service and develops them as future government leaders.

    In just three years as a public servant, this 28-year old has already made her mark. “Alyson is a take-charge person who wants to demonstrate her abilities in a way that contributes to the good of the nation,” said a former supervisor. Alyson McFarland heard the call to public service—and the nation is stronger because she answered.

    # vimeo.com/8618470 Uploaded 308 Plays 0 Comments
  4. “For our airways, there is one supreme priority: Security.” These were President Bush's words when, just two months after September 11, 2001, he signed into law an aviation security bill that created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

    One of multiple responses to the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, TSA's establishment was as much symbolic as practical. In that time of shock and fear, when another attack seemed likely, if not imminent, the nation craved a concrete response. TSA's mission to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce spoke directly to the fears of a nation afraid to board an airplane for fear of what might face them.

    Moving from symbolic acts to concrete impact was a daunting task for the new agency. On January 2, 2002, TSA consisted of only two individuals in one room at the Department of Transportation. One of those public servants was Stephen McHale, who began his service in the federal government in 1981.

    Beginning with nothing—McHale and his colleagues had no desks or phones when they began their work—McHale designed much of the organization we are familiar with today. He oversaw the recruitment of many of the executive staff and managed the hiring of many of the directors and their deputies. Along with a team of dedicated public servants, he coordinated the transfer of 1,200 Federal Aviation Administration employees to TSA and helped rebuild the Federal Air Marshal Service, now regarded as the elite of transportation security personnel. In those early months, McHale provided the growing TSA staff with leadership and direction and contributed greatly to the agency's analysis of airport and airline security and reconfiguration of airport checkpoints.

    Over the course of the next year, the agency grew to more than 60,000 employees, the largest mobilization of a new agency since the Second World War. The majority of these recruits were new to the federal government. From two employees to 60,000 in less than one year is no small feat – and McHale's work has not gone unnoticed. “Many people will tell you that Steve is the backbone of TSA,” said John W. Magaw, former Under Secretary of Transportation for Security, and McHale's supervisor until July 2002.

    But McHale's work was hardly complete when TSA was officially up and running. He managed TSA's transition from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Homeland Security when that department was formed in late 2002. To honor that transition, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta offered TSA a cornerstone inscribed with words that speak to that agency's critical mission: “Forged on an anvil of cruel necessity and blood shed innocently, the Transportation Security Administration was built urgently in a time of war, to preserve peace. This vital agency was made not of steel and stone, but of innovation, quiet patriotism, steady virtue and the firm resolve of a nation that would not yield to terror.”

    The current TSA Administrator, Admiral James Loy, added that: “Steve McHale has been an integral part of TSA's effort since Day One to restore the public's confidence in aviation security, and he will continue to play a critical leadership role as we begin to address security in other modes of transportation.”

    Air travel stopped on September 11, 2001. But the TSA gave the nation back its wings. Stephen McHale was the linchpin in that effort.

    # vimeo.com/8596653 Uploaded 233 Plays 0 Comments
  5. Smallpox is the only disease ever to have been eradicated. But, Denise Johnson is working to add polio to the list. For the past four years, she has played a leading role at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Polio Eradication Branch—a federal agency whose goal is nothing less than the worldwide eradication of polio by 2008.

    Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. In the most severe cases, it can lead to death by asphyxiation, but more often it causes paralysis in the legs, a condition that afflicted President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Polio can strike at any age, but half of those afflicted are children under three. Large polio epidemics caused panics in the U.S. and Western Europe in the 1940s and 1950s, but it has since been eradicated in all but seven African and south Asian countries: India, Nigeria, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Niger. Denise Johnson is trying to finish the job.

    Johnson's effective leadership of the Polio Eradication Branch—and its diverse staff of 43 professionals in 17 countries and Atlanta—guarantees help for those most at risk. She has managed more than $300 million in grants and the purchase of 600 million doses of polio vaccine. Recognizing that the fight against polio can't be won solely by what she accomplishes in her Atlanta office, she has served as a field consultant offering technical and operational advice to CDC and World Health Organization (WHO) staff working in potential hotspots, including Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and India.

    Under Johnson's direction, the Branch has worked closely with WHO and UNICEF to undertake polio immunization campaigns in developing countries, helping those United Nations organizations immunize over 500 million children in 93 countries.

    Johnson was recruited to the Branch from the CDC's Family and Intimate Partner Violence Prevention program. She was the architect and manager of that program for six years, but was convinced to join the Polio Eradication Branch by Robert Keegan, deputy director of the CDC's Global Immunization Division. “She's not the kind of employee that has to look for work,” he said. “I had to convince her that this was a more exciting place.” Why did Keegan want Johnson to join the Branch? “If you do a good job keeping women and children from being beaten, you can eradicate polio,” he said.

    Just fifteen years ago, there were 350,000 cases of polio in 125 countries. Last year, 1,919 people were afflicted in seven countries. Thanks to Denise Johnson, that number will soon be zero and humankind will never again have to dread another polio epidemic.

    # vimeo.com/8603631 Uploaded 166 Plays 0 Comments

2003 Service to America Medals Recipients

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