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DoD Honors Disabled Employees

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 15, 1999 – Sixteen DoD employees received special recognition Oct. 13 for their ability to overcome their disabilities to perform exemplary work.

Rudy de Leon, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, joined others in honoring the employees during ceremonies at the Pentagon. The occasion marked the 19th straight year DoD has set aside October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

In his opening remarks, de Leon said DoD has set a goal of increasing the percentage of disabled employees on the defense work force from 1.4 percent to 2 percent. He also noted DoD has purchased more than 17,000 pieces of computer equipment designed to accommodate disabled workers.

DoD leads all federal departments in hiring disabled employees, said Francis M. Rush Jr., principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for force management policy. Rush said DoD must employ and benefit from the capabilities and dedication that disabled employees bring to the work place.

Keynote speaker, Marca Bristo, challenged the Defense Department to do even more than it has for disabled Americans. Bristo, who chairs the National Council on Disability, said fair treatment of disabled employees begins with focusing on what they can do, not what they are. She challenged DoD to aim even higher than the planned .6 percent increase in disabled hiring.

"You have a head start on all the agencies of the government," she said. "They will follow your lead if you raise that bar."

De Leon, Rush, Bristo and others joined Judith Gilliom, DoD equal opportunity manager, in handing out certificates to the honored employees. They were:

Douglas E. Anderson, a laborer responsible for the care and feeding of more than 2,000 animals in the Veterinary Sciences Department, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Md. Born with developmental disabilities, Anderson has difficulty talking but has learned sign language. His supervisor cited him for always showing up for work ahead of others and described his performance as "a beacon of excellence for others."

Ivan Q. Bryan Jr., a senior mail clerk at the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va., has won performance awards every year since 1991 and received special act awards in 1991 and 1998. Born with cerebral palsy, Bryan needs extra time to process new information. Nonetheless, he has mastered new procedures and took less than a week to set up a temporary mailroom when the bureau moved because of the Pentagon renovation. "He is an asset we never want to lose," Bryan's supervisor said.

Janet M. Clay verifies agency and contractor clearances for the Defense Security Service in Columbus, Ohio. With eyesight worse than 20/200, Clay uses extra large computer monitors and magnification software to view clearance records and provide necessary verifications. Clay received a superior accomplishment award in 1998. Supervisors said her unfailing good humor calms even the most difficult and upset customers.

Paul S. Cuesta is a certified public accountant and team leader for foreign military sales in the Dayton, Ohio, operating location of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. Cuesta, who has cerebral palsy, cleared contract payment notices worth $30 million and reduced negative unliquidated obligations by $34 million. He has received three on-the-spot awards since January. He wrote a database program that "bumps" central procurement accounting against the system for mechanization of contract administrative services to identify discrepancies. Automating the process saved his colleagues hundreds of hours of work.

Mark W. Gaddis works as an electrical engineer in the laser division of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. Because of imperfect bone structure, he has broken more than 20 bones and had more than 20 orthopedic operations. Despite this debilitating disease, he has designed and patented numerous systems in use throughout the laboratory and by Air Force and civilian law enforcement agencies. He is the lead engineer for helicopter illumination programs and the principal engineer supporting the laser systems in the Battlefield Optical Surveillance System.

Nancy H. Gause works as a management analyst for the Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va. Because of achondroplasia, Gause is short in stature and has severe arthritis. She has received excellent performance ratings and many accolades for administering Fort Monroe's management control and suggestion programs. As chair of the fort's equal employment opportunity subcommittee for persons with disabilities, she received a cash award in 1998 when the subcommittee was named best in the command.

Duane P. Halliburton provides remote access expertise in the systems integration division of the information systems center, Defense Information Systems Agency, Arlington, Va. Because of severe hearing loss, he wears a hearing aid and uses a telephone amplifier and teletypewriter to make phone calls. He also uses sign language to communicate with other deaf people and provides sign language interpretation for deaf co-workers and volunteers at the Washington Hospital Center, where he's a volunteer. He earned achievement awards in 1998 and 1999.

Linda A. Higgins helps service members and their families find homes, jobs, education and transportation and manage money. A social science program specialist in the family service center at Naval Weapons Station Earle, Colts Neck, N.J., Higgins became quadriplegic after a traffic accident 20 years ago. For the past six years, Higgins has managed the station's disability program, making sure buildings and transportation on the station are made accessible by disabled employees and customers.

Brenda K. Moore provides logistical and administrative support for procurement and electronic commodities through the passive devices division of the Defense Supply Center, Columbus, Ohio. She keeps records, tracks projects and contracts and reports discrepancies. Born deaf, she reads lips and uses sign language to communicate with her co-workers. She has received numerous performance awards and her team leader says, "She is the consummate professional and team member."

Shelley Phanngam began as a summer hire four years ago and now works full-time as a customer service representative for the Defense Contract Audit Agency in Los Angeles. A native of Cambodia and confined to a wheelchair, Phanngam has received numerous awards for her work, while she pursues a degree in psychology. Her supervisor said she's "a sure bet for success."

James A. Ribardo manages inventory in the logistics division of the Defense Commissary Agency distribution center at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, U.K. A 24-year employee of the agency and its predecessor, he has received numerous performance awards during a variety of assignments. Paralyzed by a hemorrhage in 1978, Ribardo still is able to travel on the job to locations throughout the United Kingdom. A self-taught computer systems and equipment analyst, he designed custom software packages for the distribution center and managed installation of scanning cash registers at all commissaries he serves.

Jacqueline R. Rollins troubleshoots payroll problems and trains timekeepers and supervisors at the Defense Education Activity in Okinawa, Japan. She recently developed and implemented a Web page for the division. In just three years as a federal employee, she has earned three performance awards. The Manila native walks with a brace on one leg because of polio she contracted when she was 6 months old.

Vivien K. Silber joined the staff of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency as an administrative support specialist in April. She brought with her 11 years' experience as a federal employee and a network of contacts from five years with the U.S. Transportation Command in the Pentagon, where she earned performance awards every year. Partially sighted because of a stroke she suffered as a teen-ager, Silber now works in the agency's comptroller office, where she has developed standard operating procedures and manages supplies and facilities.

Phillip R. Sims loads merchandise onto trailers for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service Oakland Distribution Center in California. Diagnosed at 15 with multiple developmental disabilities, Sims persevered and completed high school by the time he was 20. He has worked for AAFES nine years, where he has earned two excellence awards, four proficiency awards and six incentive awards. He earned the maximum score of 30 on his last four annual evaluations.

Yvonne O. Tuttle maintains digital nautical charts as a cartographer with the National Imagery and Mapping Agency in Bethesda, Md. Although she has a severe hearing impairment and uses sign language to communicate, she has received many performance awards in the 23 years she has been a federal employee, including three special act awards since 1995.

D. Michael Welborn is a senior auditor in the acquisition management directorate of the Office of the Inspector General, Arlington, Va. Born with ectrodactyly-ectodermal dysplasia- clefting (also called EEC syndrome), he has deformed hands and feet and is beginning to lose his sight. He uses special computer hardware and software to perform his job. Welborn's supervisors said his analytical and communication skills are extraordinary and his audit and leadership skills have resulted in publication of many significant audit reports.

Installation employment offices can provide more information about job opportunities for disabled Americans. The Office of Personnel Management (http://www.usajobs.opm.gov/b1h.htm) and DoD Human Resource Service Center (http://persec.whs.mil/hrsc/SpecEmployProg/Disab.html) also provide detailed information on the World Wide Web. Or, write to: The President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities 1331 F Street, NW Washington, DC 20004

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