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Blindness Doesn't Slow Employee's Contributions

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

BETHESDA, Md., Dec. 10, 2003 – Seven-year-old Jenny, a golden retriever, sat silently beside Paula L. Briscoe, an intelligence officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C. From time to time, Jenny's tail would wag as she heard Briscoe's voice, but the guide dog obediently stayed inches from her companion.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Paula L. Briscoe poses with her faithful companion, 7-year-old Jenny, before the 23rd Annual DoD Disability Awards Ceremony begins. Briscoe was one of 17 DoD employees to be recognized as an outstanding employee with disabilities. The event was held Dec. 9 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Bethesda, Md. Photo by K.L. Vantran.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

"She's a sweetheart," Briscoe said as she scratched the blonde head. Briscoe and Jenny are a team, and Dec. 9 their activities took them to the Hyatt Regency Hotel here. Briscoe was one of 17 Department of Defense employees to be recognized as an outstanding employee with disabilities at the 23rd Annual DoD Disability Awards Ceremony and 16th Annual DoD Disability Forum.

"It's exciting," she said before the ceremony began. "It's nice to see the Department of Defense recognizing people with disabilities not specifically because they have disabilities, but because of what they contribute."

Briscoe began her career with DIA in December 2000. Before that, she spent two years with the directorate of reserve affairs in the Army Surgeon General's Office.

As an intelligence officer, she provides cutting-edge products for national policymakers, including the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She was selected for the J2 Iraq Intelligence Task Force Middle East Working Group, which supported Operation Iraqi Freedom. Last year, she was recognized for outstanding contributions to the Noble Eagle/Enduring Freedom/Global War on Terrorism Intelligence Task Force.

This year, she received a certificate of commendation for her service on a regional working group supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The veteran scuba diver said she was a little concerned about having a guide dog in the office, but that it has worked out fine.

"It's phenomenal -- she (Jenny) is so well accepted," said Briscoe. "Once we're at work, I take off her harness and everybody just thinks of her as the office dog. It's absolutely fantastic. It's good for her. It's good for morale. It's good for me, because I don't have to worry about her or feel awkward."

At first, Briscoe said she thought having a guide dog in a professional situation might in some way limit her. "It's been quite the opposite," she added.

The former Capitol Hill intern said when she was a child many people who were blind were teachers or musicians. "Now, we can do just about anything; technology and acceptance has come a long way," she said.

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