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DoD Honors Employees With Disabilities, Hiring

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 1996 – Eighteen DoD employees with disabilities and three defense components were honored during ceremonies at the Pentagon Oct. 15.

Organizations honored were the Department of the Army as the best military department for 1996; Defense Logistics Agency, best midsize component; and Defense Investigative Service, best small component.

Individual honors went to:

  • James Barrier, an accounting technician with the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Md. Barrier fell 65 feet from a cliff while mountain climbing in 1980. The accident left him blind in his right eye, with partial paralyses and limited motor skills on his left side. He since has won numerous performance awards, including employee of the year in 1995.
  • Michelle Bartkowiak, an education technician, with the Michigan Air National Guard, Lansing, Mich. Severe diabetes has weakened her legs, arms and hands; she has poor vision and uses a wheelchair and braces for mobility. While recuperating from a kidney transplant in 1992, she worked from her hospital bed. Following a pancreas transplant last year, she called her office the next day inquiring about tuition assistance cases she was handling.
  • Tova Bedolla, a clerical assistant with the Defense Contract Audit Agency in Tucson, Ariz. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1976, Bedolla was blinded by the disease for seven years and now uses a wheelchair for mobility. She's earned numerous awards, including the 1993 Arizona Federal Executive Association award for superior performance by a federal employee with a disability.
  • Jonathan Beranek, a computer systems analyst and programmer with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, Dallas. Beranek, who has cerebral palsy, holds four college degrees, is an awardwinning poet and works parttime as a comedian and motivational speaker. At work, he's been honored for developing a marketing promotion plan and for writing computer programs to control store receiving systems and acquisitions.
  • o Cynthia Borges, a computer scientist at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division, Newport, R.I. Born with a rare form of achondroplasia, or "dwarfism," Borges is four feet tall and has club feet and scoliosis. She walks with crutches and is unable to bend most of her fingers because they have no joints. She also has asthma. She designs computer systems, developing them through lifecycle management, testing them and training end users. Her work has earned her numerous awards.
  • Karen Cole, an automation clerk at Fort Rucker, Ala. Born without arms, Cole uses her feet to perform tasks including transcribing reports and letters, maintaining files and taking telephone calls. She uses a computer, typewriter and other office machines. In 20 years of federal employment, she's won many awards, including being named professional woman of the year in 1978 by Pilot International and the Alabama Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities. She was Fort Rucker's disabled employee of the year in 1995.
  • Ann Cook, a personnel assistant with the National Imagery and Mapping Service (formerly Defense Mapping Agency), Fairfax, Va. A quadriplegic since injuring her spinal cord in a 1977 diving accident, Cook began her federal career in 1980. Last summer, she managed a special project to bring 19 employees onto the rolls simultaneously at the Central Imagery Office. She also led a process improvement team for the integration of people with disabilities into the work force.
  • Gary Day, a senior computer scientist with the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Md. Blinded at 25 by retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease, Day worked the past two years developing software to improve access to computers by people with visual impairments in particular, graphical user interfaces for Microsoft Windows applications.
  • Patricia Ganzzermiller, a personnel security specialist with the Defense Investigative Service, Linthicum, Md. Ganzzamiller lost her hearing at age 2, then learned sign language and lip reading. Today, she teaches hearing people to sign at work and local community colleges. At work, she spends much of her time on national agency checks for individual security clearances.
  • o Mary Lynn Goblirsch, a computer specialist at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. A polio survivor, Goblirsch uses a motorized scooter for mobility. She recently led a massive sixmonth effort to implement a radical new design for a message preparation system in extensive use by DoD employees worldwide. She also serves as secretary of, and publishes a newsletter for, the base disability awareness committee.
  • o Michael Gomoluh, an accounting technician with the commissary at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. An automobile accident in 1978 left Gomoluh with the use of only his left arm and hand. After rehabilitation, he began his federal career as a commissary sales checker. Later, he assisted implementing an automated business management system. In the past five years, he's helped the Nellis commissary avoid any major employee pay problems.
  • o John Graham, a financial manager for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, Columbus, Ohio. Graham contracted polio at age 5 and now uses a wheelchair. He oversees development of four divisions, 46 supervisors and nearly 400 associates responsible for payrolls to more than 500 agencies and 110,000 civilian employees. Using business process improvements and increased emphasis on productivity, Graham improved services despite cutting 65 people from the staff.
  • o Colette Lewis, a computer programmer with the Defense Intelligence Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, D.C. Paralyzed as a result of a spinal cord injury during her freshman year of high school, Lewis leads a team implementing and testing a new electronic mail package. In the past, she identified and corrected computer system problems and responded to more than 1,200 service requests a year.
  • o Wanda McCallum, a consultant on education of hearing impaired students in the Department of Defense Dependent Schools, European area, Kaiserslautern, Germany. Paralyzed from the neck down by polio, McCallum travels throughout Europe to consult with teachers and assess students. While recovering from back surgery in her hospital bed, she screened military families to ensure appropriate school needs were met.
  • o James O'Harra, an engineering technician with the Defense Logistics Agency, Columbus, Ohio. In 1969, while serving as an Army medic in Vietnam, O'Harra received a shrapnel wound that caused partial paralysis of his legs and nerve damage to his left arm. Medically retired, he entered federal civil service in 1972. Among current duties, he helps prepare a master plan used by Congress to evaluate his agency's construction budget. O'Harra researched, coordinated and justified the agency's child development center, now being built.
  • o Barbara Ann Sidawy, an intelligence technician with the Defense Prisoner of WarMissing in Action Office, Arlington, Va. Deaf since birth, Sidawy maintains casualty files for more than 2,100 service members unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. She helped organize more than 25,000 photographs obtained by research teams in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Her work contributes to the DoD goal of achieving the fullest possible accounting of Americans missing from all conflicts.
  • Thomas Stumm, a clerk typist with the Defense Information Systems Agency, Arlington, Va. A head injury sustained in a 1982 car accident caused Stumm speech loss, memory loss, cognitive deficits, diabetes and impaired mobility and motor skills. At work, he reviews all travel vouchers of the agency's employees worldwide.
  • Patricia Zimmet, an accounting technician in the Financial Control Division, OnSite Inspection Agency, Office of the Comptroller, Washington. Born with a hearing impairment, Zimmet enters obligation and disbursing information into finance and accounting systems to help reconcile records. Her efforts ensure accurate endofmonth reports to the Defense Finance and Accounting Center.
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