NEW YORK — On November 24, a standing-room-only crowd of several hundred District employees filled the 6th floor conference room at 26 Federal Plaza for a formal ceremony and Town Hall where the New York District received the Army Superior Unit Award for excellence for response and recovery work after Hurricane Sandy in fall 2012. This prestigious award, established in 1985, is presented in peacetime to a unit of the U.S. Army displaying outstanding performance in a difficult, challenging mission accomplished under extraordinary circumstances.
The award discussed the District’s superior performance delivering rapid, timely, expeditionary engineering projects and services, successful response operations supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), re-establishment of operations in the Port of New York and New Jersey, rapid closure of barrier-island breaches threatening life and property, starting the process of restoring severely damaged coastal storm risk reduction projects in NY and NJ and proactively resolving political issues and leading interagency efforts executing emergency response and recovery.
Events began with a slide show depicting recovery efforts on multiple screens accompanied by New York City-themed music, including Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” Lou Benard (EX), master of ceremonies, began with a description of meritorious actions that earned the award. Then New York District Commander Col. David A. Caldwell and North Atlantic Division Commander Brig. Gen. William Graham unveiled the framed awards before the audience. All employees involved with recovery/restoration efforts were asked to stand (nearly 200 people) receiving applause for their efforts.
NAD Commander’s Presentation
Then Brig. Gen. William Graham addressed the audience. In an interactive presentation, he spoke about the importance of the Army Corps of Engineers during a period of downsizing in the U.S. Army: “If that work comes to us [from Headquarters], we have to deliver.” Graham also discussed the importance of succession-planning — transferring organizational knowledge from retiring employees to new staff and, in a surprise to many, announced that Col. Caldwell will leave his post early — serving two years instead of three — as directed by Army Corps of Engineers’ Commanding Gen. and Chief of Engineers Thomas Bostick.
After the speech, a video of former New York District Commander Col. Paul Owen — leading response and recovery efforts during his tenure and now commanding the Afghanistan District — was shown. He praised District employees, saying he was proud to lead a great group during a very difficult time. Then Paul Jalowski, a District engineer deployed in Afghanistan, appeared on screen and delivered a message to fellow employees. This was followed by remarks from Col. David Caldwell, who told staff, “I’m extremely proud of you” and glad “to be a part of your team.”
The awards are permanently displayed in the hall on the 21st
floor of 26 Federal Plaza, just outside the Executive Office. Every District employee received a lapel pin, and is entitled to wear it while connected to the District. Those contributing to Sandy recovery efforts can wear the ribbons in perpetuity.