AUSA Announces 2022 National Award Winners

AUSA Announces 2022 National Award Winners

Ret. CSM Don Thomas recieves the 2021 Bainbridge award
Photo by: Rod Lamkey for AUSA

The Association of the U.S. Army has announced the recipients of its 2022 National Awards, which honor individuals for their selfless service and dedication to the Army and its soldiers.

“This year’s National Award recipients represent the very best of AUSA,” said retired Gen. Bob Brown, AUSA president and CEO. “Through their dedicated service and commitment, each of them has made a huge difference in the lives of others and in support of our Army and our nation, and I look forward to honoring them at our annual meeting in October.”

The awards will be presented at the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition, Oct. 10–12 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

During the annual meeting, AUSA also will honor Elizabeth Dole, a former U.S. senator, two-time cabinet secretary, former leader of the American Red Cross and founder of a national organization that focuses on support for military families and caregivers.

AUSA earlier this year announced that Dole is the 2022 recipient of the George Catlett Marshall Medal. AUSA’s highest award, the Marshall Medal is presented for distinguished and selfless service.

Dole was chosen because of her decades of selfless service to the United States and particularly because of her many efforts to aid service members and their families.

Here’s a closer look at this year’s National Award recipients. 

Abrams Medal

The General Creighton W. Abrams Medal for exceptional service to the U.S. Army will be awarded to the Civilian Aides to the Secretary of the Army program.

Established in November 1922, the program is celebrating its 100th year of service. Civilian aides to the secretary of the Army are business and community leaders appointed by the Army secretary to advise and support Army leaders across the country. They come from many professions, including business, education, finance, medicine and public service, and each is actively involved in his or her community.

“As the Army’s ambassadors, the CASAs have bridged the gap between the American public and our great Army for 100 years,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said in a statement. “I’d like to thank the CASAs for their continued support to our soldiers, veterans, families and surrounding communities and applaud them for being the 2022 General Creighton W. Abrams Medal recipient. Thank you to AUSA for this outstanding recognition of the CASAs’ legacy of service.” 

The CASA program originally called upon select citizens to enhance cooperation and coordination with the War Department. In 1950, the program was redesigned to meet the Army’s need for civilian liaisons across the country. 

While the program has evolved throughout the years, its core mission remains the same—to bridge the gap between the American public and its Army. Representing every state and territory, the CASAs help tell the Army story, support the Total Army workforce and support transitioning soldiers and their families.

CASAs are “force multipliers” for the Army’s recruiting mission, “tirelessly” supporting their local recruiters while promoting the Army as “the employer of choice,” Gen. Paul Funk, commanding general of the Army Training and Doctrine Command, wrote when nominating the program for the award. 

The CASAs also help provide career and education opportunities to transitioning soldiers, among other initiatives, “to set our soldiers up for success even after their time in uniform ends,” Funk wrote.

“On this, the program’s 100th anniversary, it is only fitting that we recognize the tremendous contributions the CASA program has had—and will continue to have—making the U.S. Army the finest in the world,” Funk wrote.

Bainbridge Medal

The Sergeant Major of the Army William G. Bainbridge Medal for contributions to the Army Noncommissioned Officer Corps will be awarded to retired Command Sgt. Maj. W. Douglas Gibbens, an AUSA senior fellow and longtime volunteer leader with the association.

Gibbens, who joined the Army in 1966 and served in the Army Reserve until his retirement in 2001, is an active supporter of the Army and its soldiers. He has served for 13 years in support of the Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve, 19 years as an Army Reserve ambassador for Indiana, 10 years on the Army Recruiting Command Grass Roots Council supporting recruiters in Indiana, and is involved in many other organizations, Cynthia Gatto, president of AUSA’s Indiana chapter, wrote in nominating Gibbens.

Within AUSA, his support has been “nothing short of miraculous,” serving in every leadership position within the Indiana chapter, as AUSA’s 2nd Region vice president for eight years and then as the region president from 2016 to 2020, Gatto said. 

He also has been a mentor to Gatto and to the entire chapter board, “the driving force behind each chapter event and any award the chapter has achieved over the years,” according to his nomination.

Recently inducted into the Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame, Gibbens continues to support his local AUSA chapter, including helping collect more than 700 pounds of canned goods and clothing to help homeless veterans and their families, Gatto said.

He also is co-founder of the Indiana chapter’s annual golf outing, which is the chapter’s only fundraising event and supports the chapter’s other activities throughout the year, and co-founder of the chapter’s college scholarship program, which has awarded more than $100,000 in 10 years to Indiana soldiers or their dependents. Gibbens also plays a key role in the chapter’s community outreach efforts, its annual soldier and NCO breakfast and numerous other activities.

Gibbens is an “exemplary individual, an honorable man and a credit of the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army and the Association of the United States Army, as well of the Indiana chapter,” Gatto said. 

Drexel Biddle Medal 

The Major General Anthony J. Drexel Biddle Medal for outstanding contributions to the Association of the U.S. Army will be awarded to retired Lt. Col. Ronald Johnson, a longtime volunteer leader who has served at the national, region and chapter levels of AUSA.

For 36 years and counting, Johnson has been a “committed member, a sleeves-rolled-up volunteer, and an exceptional leader” for AUSA, retired Col. Hugh McLeod, past president of AUSA’s 2nd Region, wrote when nominating Johnson for the award.

“Ron’s dedicated and tireless efforts have helped propel AUSA towards its vision of being recognized as the Army’s premier association and the foremost supporter of the Total Army,” McLeod wrote.

Johnson has served as president, executive vice president and treasurer for the association’s 2nd Region, which includes Washington, D.C., Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. He also led the Fairfax-Lee chapter, now known as the Potomac-Liberty chapter, for two years, helping it attain Chapter of Excellence recognition each of those years, along with several other awards.

Johnson also was a member of the AUSA finance and audit committee from 2003 to 2020, and he still serves on the AUSA national scholarship evaluation team, helping the association select the best-qualified applicants for more than $300,000 in financial aid.

“AUSA would not be the leading association that it is today without the herculean support of Ron Johnson,” wrote retired Col. Glenn Yarborough, the current 2nd Region president, in endorsing Johnson for the award. “He is the epitome of all that AUSA can do, and he does all this effort with a smile and asks for more.”

Cribbins Medal

The Joseph P. Cribbins Medal for exemplary service by a Department of the Army civilian will be awarded to David Engbrecht, director of the Homeland Defense/Civil Support Office at the Army’s Maneuver Support Center of Excellence at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

A retired sergeant major, Engbrecht has served for 19 years as an Army civilian for a combined 43 years of service. He is actively engaged in the communities around Fort Leonard Wood, and he has been a member of AUSA for more than 22 years.

Engbrecht has worked in the Homeland Defense/Civil Support Office for more than a decade and became its director in July 2021. “Dave’s superb leadership and technical skill resulted in the establishment and growth of [the office] as an organization that is now recognized as an indispensable part of the policy, training and capability development activities related to Army support to operations in the homeland,” Gregg Thompson, deputy to the commanding general of the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, wrote as he endorsed Engbrecht’s nomination.

Engbrecht has “consistently risen to the challenge,” whether it’s integrating with partners or finding solutions to the Army’s needs, Thompson wrote.

Engbrecht also is active in his community, serving as a volunteer, mentor and guide to organizations such as Army Emergency Relief, the Salvation Army, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Boy Scouts of America.

“Without question, Dave Engbrecht is recognized across the Army for his leadership and technical expertise in a critical mission area,” Thompson wrote. “Mr. Engbrecht upholds the highest ideals of service as a Department of the Army civilian and as a member of the community.”

Dixon Award 

The John W. Dixon Award for outstanding contributions to national defense from industry will be awarded to Joseph Newberry, president and CEO of the Redstone Federal Credit Union in Huntsville, Alabama.

When he became CEO in 2008, the credit union had $2 billion in assets, about 300,000 members, 19 branches and 729 employees. Today, it has assets of $8 billion, nearly 700,000 members, 28 branches and 1,200 employees. 

The credit union, formed on Redstone Arsenal in 1951, is Alabama’s largest member-owned financial institution. Since 2004, it has been a strong community partner of AUSA’s Redstone-Huntsville chapter, and more recently has become the association’s largest contributing Association Partner, said retired Lt. Gen. Patricia McQuistion, a former vice president of Membership and Meetings for AUSA.

In a letter recommending Newberry for the award, McQuistion wrote that Newberry approached AUSA with a proposal to offer AUSA membership to new Redstone Federal Credit Union members. 

“AUSA has benefitted enormously from the relationship, both financially and by expanding membership by more than 110,000 individuals in the three years the agreement has been in effect,” McQuistion wrote. “Importantly, many of these people would likely never have heard of AUSA without RFCU’s assistance.” 

Locally, Newberry maintains his close ties with AUSA’s Redstone-Huntsville chapter. The credit union regularly sponsors chapter events, including its local Veteran Day celebrations, athletic events for wounded warriors and an ROTC luncheon.

The credit union also donated $50,000 to the National Museum of the United States Army and supports veterans and military groups such as the Veterans Museum and Archives in Alabama, the local American Legion post and the Legacy 4 Korean War Veterans Foundation.

“Redstone’s partnership with AUSA has been extremely beneficial and has prompted the addition of new members to both organizations,” Rhonda Sutton, the chapter president, wrote when nominating Newberry for the award.

McLain Medal

The Lieutenant General Raymond S. McLain Medal, given to a current or former member of the National Guard for advancing a seamless and component-integrated Army, will be awarded to Maj. Gen. Jill Faris, director of the Office of the Joint Surgeon for the National Guard Bureau. 

A graduate of South Dakota University who commissioned in 1987, Faris distinguished herself during the COVID-19 pandemic when, as the interim G-3/5/7 for Army Medical Command, she was asked to lead the daily operations, plans and training for the command and the Army surgeon general’s office.

Between April 2020 and June 2021, Faris integrated the Army’s medical enterprise as it responded to the pandemic, navigated reforms to the Medical Health System and weathered the turbulence of Medical Command restructuring, Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, the Army surgeon general, wrote when nominating Faris for the award.

Faris and her team created and deployed the first-ever Urban Augmentee Medical Task Forces across the U.S., including to the Javits Center in New York and to Seattle, Houston, El Paso, Texas, and Los Angeles to help hospitals overwhelmed with COVID patients.

She also led the effort to increase the Army’s ability to test for COVID-19, expanding from nine to 46 laboratories and deploying hundreds of testing machines specially designed to test for COVID-19 in a rapid sequence, Dingle wrote.

Additionally, Faris worked with the Army National Guard and Army Reserve to deploy tens of thousands of Guard soldiers and hundreds of Reserve medical soldiers who were recalled from retirement to help fight the pandemic, and she assigned planners and logisticians to work on Operation Warp Speed, the national effort to get the vaccine out to U.S. citizens, Dingle wrote.

Her work is still not done, Dingle wrote, as she continues to host the daily crisis action team synchronization meetings, surpassing more than 420 days of continuous operations. “Her presence, steady guidance and direction have in large part contributed to the successful execution of the entire Nation’s pandemic response,” Dingle said.

Rudder Medal

The Major General James Earl Rudder Medal, given to a current or former member of the U.S. Army Reserve for advancing a seamless and component-integrated Army, is awarded to retired Command Sgt. Maj. Arthur Leak, a member of AUSA’s Indiana chapter and Army Reserve ambassador for Indiana.

A veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Leak served in the Army and Army Reserve for 39 years, retiring in 2016. 

In his civilian life, Leak is the registrar for Anderson University and is a member of the Anderson Morning Rotary Club, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, the Indiana Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers and several other groups.

In 2017, Leak was appointed Army Reserve ambassador for Indiana, where he represents the Army Reserve chief at local functions and celebrations and serves as another set of eyes and ears for the chief with local and statewide units and organizations.

He also is an associate minister of the Friendship Baptist Church and The Sherman Street Church of God, and he is completing his sixth term as a member of the Edgewood Town Council in Indiana, Gibbens, as a former president of AUSA’s 2nd Region, wrote in his nomination of Leak.

“CSM Arthur Leak is truly the epitome of the citizen-soldier,” Gibbens said. “He has consistently shown excellence in leadership, whether it be in the performance of his duties in the Army, in his contributions to his community and church or in his leadership as registrar at Anderson University. Wherever he has been assigned in the Army or in his community, he has quickly risen to the top with his rare combination of servant leadership, selfless service and flawless performance. I am proud to call him my friend.”

Volunteer Family of the Year 

The AUSA Volunteer Family of the Year Award for promoting the well-being of soldiers and their family members is presented to the family of Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Tomasura.

Tomasura, his wife, Amanda, and their three children—Timothy Jr., who is 15, Zoey, who’s 13, and 10-year-old Mackenzie—also are the 2022 Family of the Year for Fort Jackson, South Carolina. 

At Fort Jackson, Tomasura was a senior drill sergeant with the 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment. The family is now stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

The Tomasura family “embodies the phrase ‘Staying Ready Together’ while selflessly sharing their time and talents to enhance organizations in the Fort Jackson Army community and in the surrounding Columbia community,” Silvia Butler, of AUSA’s Fort Jackson-Palmetto State chapter, wrote when nominating the family for the award.

From hosting events for Gold Star teens to organizing reunions for Vietnam veterans, the Tomasuras have dedicated countless hours to helping others.

During the Gold Star Adventure event, 23 teenagers who had lost a parent in combat were given a chance to see what their loved one experienced during basic training. The Tomasuras coordinated and conducted activities such as land navigation and marching.

Sgt. 1st Class Tomasura also led a reunion for 23 Vietnam veterans from the 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment. The veterans, who came from across the country to Fort Jackson, observed basic training and attended a ceremony dedicating a memorial to the unit.

The Tomasura family also is actively involved in the battalion’s Soldier and Family Readiness Group, with Amanda Tomasura volunteering to lead the group.

She organized fundraising events every 10 weeks, raising $10,000 each year, with the money being used on events such as a Christmas dinner for 300 families in the battalion and free admission to a South Carolina amusement park for 35 drill sergeants and their families.

“This type of commitment reflects the love and teamwork that exists within the Tomasura home and transfers to the Army community,” Butler wrote.

Amanda Tomasura also has dedicated more than 500 volunteer hours with Habitat for Humanity and more than 700 hours with the American Red Cross.

“The Tomasura family understand the skills and discipline needed to make serving others possible,” Butler said. “They always strive to give their best within their family and strive to give their best to others.” 

National Service Award

AUSA is honored to present its National Service Award to Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s and their founder and CEO Johnny Morris.

Founded in 1972, Bass Pro Shops is a leading national retailer of outdoor gear and apparel, with 200 stores across North America, according to the company’s website. Morris, an avid angler, started the business with 8-square-feet of space in the back of his father’s liquor store in Springfield, Missouri.

Today, Bass Pro Shops locations draw more than 200 million visitors a year, according to the company’s website.

Bass Pro Shops, which acquired Cabela’s in 2017, also has several conservation initiatives, including protecting wildlife and habitat, connecting kids and families to the outdoors and protecting sportsmen’s rights through access and advocacy efforts, the company website says.

Motivated by his father, who served in World War II and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, Morris is a “true patriot” who has “instilled a culture of giving and patriotism in all of the organizations that he owns,” retired Command Sgt. Maj. Rick Morris, AUSA’s 5th Region president, wrote when nominating Johnny Morris for the award.

Every year, the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s team reaches out to ensure it does something special to honor the troops, and this past year was no different, wrote Rick Morris, who is not related to Johnny Morris.

In July 2021, Johnny Morris donated a home to Marine Sgt. Joe Bartel, an amputee; paid the mortgage for Army Staff Sgt. Dan Barnes, a wounded warrior; and pledged to pay for 25% of the next 100 donated homes through the Helping a Hero organization.

He offered a free day away to the more than 500 soldiers at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, who weren’t able to be with their families during holiday block leave in December, providing them with a visit to Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium. Spanning 350,000 square feet with more than 1.5 miles of trails, Wonders of Wildlife is located next to Bass Pro Shops’ headquarters in Springfield.

His company donated $1.5 million to establish a series of memorials honoring heroes at the College of the Ozarks in Missouri; recruits veterans for its workforce; and hosts events for recovering veterans including fishing tournaments for disabled veterans; among several other initiatives.

“Johnny Morris would be the last person to seek or want any attention,” Keith Pritchard, civilian aide to the secretary of the Army for Missouri (West), wrote in a letter endorsing the nomination. “His service to the men and women of America’s Armed Forces is unprecedented. … Mr. Morris is a humble man that uses his unmatched generosity to support our service members and their families in substantial life changing events.”