Washington, DC - The Department of the Navy (DoN) won Best Military Department and three of its federal employees received individual recognition at the 37th Annual Department of Defense (DoD) Disability Awards Ceremony Thursday at the Pentagon.
In observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the awards were presented to service members and civilians with disabilities for their outstanding contributions in supporting the DoD mission, and to the DoD components and military departments for their exemplary efforts to adopt and implement exemplary practices to advance a diverse and inclusive workforce.
Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower and Reserve Affairs) Robert Woods accepted the Best Military Department award on behalf of DoN.
Woods also co-presented Outstanding Service Members and Civilian Employees with Disabilities awards to three DoN employees:
Ray Bourgeois, associate counsel, Navy Facilities Engineering Command, Washington D.C.
Kelly Thomas, human resource specialist, Naval Supply Systems Command, Mechanicsburg, Pa.
Staff Sgt. David P. Doty, criminal investigator, United States Marine Corps, Okinawa, Japan
"Our employees with disabilities bring incredible achievements to the Department of the Navy on a daily basis," said Woods. "I'm very proud of the great work of our Navy and Marine Corps team that resulted in our earning the Best Military Department Award. It was my privilege to accept the award on behalf of the Department and to honor Mr. Bourgeois, Ms. Thomas and Staff Sgt. Doty. Their hard work and dedication are a testament to achieving success regardless of obstacles."
Bourgeois has served as associate counsel in the Office of Counsel, NAVFAC, for more than 18 years, and as a judge advocate general in the United States Air Force for 23 years. He has worked on numerous complex legal issues, resolution of which was essential to effectively executing the DoN mission. In connection with the largest land acquisition in DoD history, he developed strategy and provided critical advice allowing the Marine Corps to acquire 151,000 acres to perform critical training at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California.
Bourgeois also developed the legal strategy for executing a lease with a major developer to provide an important office building for the DoN in San Diego in return for the right to develop the remainder of the site for commercial purposes. The project has spanned 25 years. Bourgeois devised a legal position that has allowed the DoN to prevail in a lengthy series of legal challenges, including major federal litigation. When Congress gave military departments the authority to execute encroachment protection agreements with non-governmental entities to protect land around military installations, Bourgeois wrote the guidance for the DoN, including template agreements providing the necessary mitigation for endangered species impacted by military action.
"It was a surprise and I feel very honored," said Bourgeois after receiving his award. "I just try to do all I can to get the job done. My work is part of my therapy."
"My determination is to be able to get out of this wheelchair and move around on my own," he continued. "I don't have any expectation of running and jumping like I did before I was injured, but I do have a belief that I'll be able to get out of this chair, and probably with a walker or a cane, be able to walk on my own."
Bourgeois then shared a message to others with disabilities.
"You just can't let it control and define you," he said. "In my work with the therapist, my mantra is to set a goal and exceed it. My therapist would say, 'let's try to do 100 feet,' so I want to do 110 or more, just to keep improving. If you give up, nothing is ever going to happen. I refuse to give up."
Kelly Thomas, a human resources specialist in the workforce development branch, training and development team at the Naval Supply Systems Command Headquarters (NAVSUP) in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, received the Outstanding DoD Civilian Employees with Disabilities Award. She successfully communicated and solicited more than 100 awards as the program manager of the Honorary and Organization Awards Program and the Individual Development Plan and Competency Manager Programs. In addition to reviewing and processing awards packages, she developed a draft instruction to standardize the awards process within NAVSUP. She also conducted training for more than 6,000 employees on the IDP and developed a NAVSUP instruction for the administration of this requirement. Her efforts resulted in an increase from 20% to more than 75% of NAVSUP employees having an approved IDP in place within the last two years. Thomas is considered the NAVSUP expert in the Total Workforce Management System used for IDPs.
Staff Sgt. David P. Doty, a criminal investigator with the U.S. Marine Corps, served on active duty for 12 years. A Purple Heart recipient, he transitioned to the 5821 military occupational specialty three years ago following injuries sustained during combat operations in Sangin Valley, Afghanistan, as an infantry Marine. A key member of undercover crime operations, Doty also routinely volunteers to teach crime scene processing to law enforcement officers. He also provided the Commandant of the Marine Corps with protective services during his April 2017 visit to Okinawa.
Twenty-one disabled federal employees and active-duty service members received recognition for outstanding service at the ceremony. The Secretary of Defense also gave Best Mid-sized Component, Best Small-sized Component, Best Intelligence Component and Best Accessible Technology Program awards to the Defense Logistics Agency, Defense Media Activity and National Security Agency (for the latter two), respectively.