AUSA Announces National Award Winners

AUSA Announces National Award Winners

Photo by: U.S. Army

The Association of the U.S. Army is pleased to announce its 2018 national award recipients, who will be honored during the Oct. 8–10 Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C.

The awards are:


The General Creighton W. Abrams Medal for exceptional service to the U.S. Army will be awarded to former Homeland Security Secretary Thomas J. Ridge, a Vietnam War veteran who went on to spend a long career in public service. 

In an interview earlier this year, Ridge said one of the good things about serving in the Army is it makes you think about “causes bigger than yourself. … That sense of community is difficult to understand and appreciate unless you had that advantage.”

A native of Munhall, Pa., Ridge was a Harvard University graduate drafted into the Army in 1968 after he’d finished his first year of law school. As the only college graduate in his platoon, Ridge recalls he got to do some extra pushups and he was sent to the NCO Academy at Fort Benning, Ga., where he earned his sergeant stripes before shipping to Vietnam, where he served with the 23rd Infantry Division. He was offered a commission but turned it down, leaving the Army as a staff sergeant to return to law school.

He began public service in 1972 as an assistant district attorney in Erie County, Pa., and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982 as the first enlisted Vietnam veteran in the House. After six terms in the House, he was elected Pennsylvania’s 43rd governor.

After the 9/11 attacks, Ridge was picked by President George W. Bush to head the newly created Office of Homeland Security, a post he held until Feb. 1, 2005. In his resignation letter, Ridge said after 22 consecutive years of public service, he wanted to give more time to personal and family matters.

He has served as chairman of the Vietnam War Commemoration Advisory Committee and was the keynote speaker in May at the opening ceremony of a Vietnam War exhibit in Harrisburg, Pa., “The Wall That Heals,” a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Ridge said the fact that he wasn’t listed on the wall among the other Vietnam War casualties had nothing to do with his soldiering skills: “Survival had very little to do with being a good soldier. A lot of good soldiers didn’t come home.”

Ridge wrote a book, The Test of Our Times, about national security matters, was co-chair of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense, has served on many corporate boards and is a partner in the Ridge Policy Group, a bipartisan government relations and advisory firm.


The Major General Anthony J. Drexel Biddle Medal for outstanding contributions to the Association of the U.S. Army will be awarded to Toni Schuman, a 40-year member of AUSA’s Greater Los Angeles Chapter.

While she would never accept the nomination to be chapter president, she served more than 25 years as chapter secretary and as adviser and counsel to those who were president. For those 25 years, she filed every chapter activity report, wrote the annual chapter plan and kept a vigilant eye on all activities to ensure the chapter was always in compliance with the bylaws. And, crucial for the chapter, she guided it through a time of transition when new sources of funds had to be found when defense industry support became scarce in Southern California.

A former chapter president, Michael Springman, a retired Northrop Grumman executive, called Schuman the “consummate soldier’s friend.”

“Besides her administrative and organizational contributions, Toni represents the best of what AUSA offers to its constituent soldiers and their families. She truly cares about their welfare and strives to do whatever she and the chapter can do for them within the chapter’s resources. And when those resources don’t prove to be enough, she beats the bushes to drum up more from the chapter’s corporate members,” he wrote in an endorsement of her nomination.

Retired Lt. Col. Pete Seitz, the current chapter president, wrote, “In many ways, Toni represents the heart, soul and conscience of our chapter.”


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. Robert W. Van Pelt, president of the Capital District of New York Chapter of AUSA.

During 42 years of service, Van Pelt served in the Regular Army and Army NationalGuard, including a tour in Vietnam.

His last assignment was as the New York National Guard’s command sergeant major. When he retired in June 2011, he became a civilian technician responsible for establishing a Guard Employment Initiatives program and, with cooperation with the Hiring Our Heroes Program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has organized job fairs across New York credited with helping more than 4,000 service members, veterans and military spouses find jobs with military-friendly employers.

His involvement in the once-dormant Capital District of New York Chapter has turned it around. He’s served as chapter president for more than six years, in addition to having leadership roles on the National Guard and Naval Militia Relief Society of New York Inc., the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce Veterans Business Council, the 1st Signal Brigade Association and as a member of AUSA’s Retiree and Veteran Affairs Committee.


The Joseph P. Cribbins Medal for exemplary service by a Department of the Army civilian will be awarded to retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse T. Sablan, a U.S. Army Financial Management Command senior financial management analyst.

He has served as the principal pay adviser for Wounded Warriors, and has helped reform rules to relieve soldiers of debts resulting from overpayment of combat theater entitlements. His efforts led to a waiver of indebtedness in 2007 that aided 6,000 seriously injured soldiers who had been medically evacuated from a combat zone.

Sablan authored a 2008 Memorandum of Agreement between the Army and the Defense Department covering the financial management roles and responsibilities of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, Army Medical Command and Army Financial Management Command on Wounded Warrior matters, and then aided in training staff to make it work.

Sablan also provided military pay expertise related to congressional enactment of new rules involving pay for combat-injured soldiers, according to G. Eric Reid, Army Finance Services director. “He is an outstanding professional and an invaluable asset to the Army, DoD and the American public,” Reid said.

Sablan also is a volunteer at a local elementary school and on a committee that presents monthly ethnic observances for Defense Finance and Accounting Services and Army Financial Management Command employees, where one of the most popular events is the Asian-Pacific month celebration he has co-chaired.


The John W. Dixon Award for outstanding contributions to national defense from industry will be awarded to Roger A. Krone, Leidos chairman and CEO, who has held leadership positions for nearly 40 years at prominent aerospace organizations and whose company has been recognized for its support of military members and their families.

Leidos has a long-standing commitment to supporting military veterans and their families, both in its line of business, in its workforce and philanthropically. Krone is proud that the Leidos workforce consists of approximately 21 percent military veterans. 

The aerospace engineer from Cincinnati has been a driving force behind Leidos’ culture of innovation since his 2014 appointment as CEO. Under his leadership, Leidos has invested in critical internal research and development aimed at helping the Army solve some of its toughest problems.

Before joining Leidos, Krone served as president of Network and Space Systems for Boeing, where he provided calculated direction for approximately 15,000 employees in 35 states and 12 countries. His organization provided integrated technologies to government and commercial customers. He joined McDonnell Douglas in 1992, serving as director of financial planning, vice president and treasurer after a 14-year career at General Dynamics, where he held positions in program management, engineering and finance. Krone also previously served as chairman of the board of directors of the United Launch Alliance, a 50-50 joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin that helps carry weather, telecommunications and national security satellites to space and employs more rocket scientists than any other company in the world. 

Krone earned a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, a master's degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington, and a master’s of business administration from the Harvard Graduate School of Business. A Six Sigma Green Belt, Krone is a licensed commercial pilot and a certified public accountant. He is also a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society in the United Kingdom.

Krone is a member of the Georgia Tech Foundation Board of Trustees, and a member of the board of WETA Public Television and Radio in Washington, D.C. He is a long-time supporter of the Urban League, and serves on the board of the Greater Washington chapter. He is also a member of the Executive Council of the Aerospace Industries Association and a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Foundation’s Board of Visitors.


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 retired Maj. Gen. Jessica L. Garfola Wright, the former adjutant general of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania National Guard commander who served as undersecretary of defense for Personnel and Readiness after her 35-year military career ended.

The Guard’s first female aviator, her military career began in 1975 when she enlisted in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard shortly after graduating from Alderson Broaddus College in West Virginia. She attended the Women's Army Corps Officer Orientation/Officer Candidate School at Fort McClellan, Ala., and then the Officer Rotary Wing Aviator Course at Fort Rucker, Ala. She also graduated from the CH-47 Aviator Qualification Course and CH-54 Aviator Qualification Course and is a graduate of the Army War College Military Fellowship at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC.

An assistant professor of military science at Georgia Southern College in Statesboro, Ga., starting in 1986, Wright was reassigned in 1989 to the National Guard Bureau headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she served as a personnel staff officer, executive officer, chief of the budget and services branch and chief of the tours management office. She also headed the National Guard personnel directorate.

Wright commanded the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade, 28th Infantry Division, at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., from June 1997 to November 1998. She was the first female maneuver brigade commander in the Army.

She became Pennsylvania’s Adjutant General in 2004, the 50th person to hold the position and the first female. She retired from military service in 2010. In 2012, she became assistant defense secretary for reserve affairs, and later was appointed undersecretary for personnel and readiness.

Retired Army Col. Dennis J. Dougherty, president of AUSA’s 1st Region that includes Pennsylvania, said Wright distinguished herself in a long career “as a capable, caring and selfless leader. She has demonstrated on many occasions the skills and leadership abilities to enable her soldiers to perform effectively in conjunction with components from the active Army, from other U.S. services, and from allied nations.”


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. Joseph R. Sweeney, a Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army who has been a member of AUSA since 1971.

 As a CASA, he disseminates information on the Army’s objectives, roles, requirements and major programs through speeches, personal contact and meetings, and provides advice on development of programs to strengthen bonds and cooperation between the Army and civilian communities.

Sweeney enlisted in the Army in 1968, serving in jobs of increasing responsibility for a noncommissioned officer. When he retired in 2001, Sweeney had served more than 19 years as a command sergeant major, with assignments in eight different Regular Army and Army Reserve units. Seven of the eight were within general officer commands. His active service included combat and overseas assignments in Vietnam, Germany, Korea and Japan. Most of his Army Reserve assignments were in Northern California.

Sweeney also is a retired Oakland (Calif.) Police Department sergeant who serves as vice president of the Retired Oakland Police Officers’ Association, and a director with the California Employer Support of the Guard/Reserve.

As an AUSA member, he has held chapter, state, regional and national positions.  including serving as president of four different chapters for a cumulative 14 years. In 2000, he was the first command sergeant major elected to serve as an AUSA region president. He has served on four AUSA advisory boards. Directly or indirectly, Sweeney has been responsible for recruiting or retaining more than 1,000 members.


The Volunteer Family of the Year Award for promoting the well-being of soldiers and their family members is presented to the family of Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Vincent and Tonya Pastore of Mount Laurel, N.J.

The couple and their three daughters—Angelina, Isabella and Sabrina—are dedicated volunteers involved in a wide range of programs.

Vincent’s activities include Backpacks for Life, a program helping in the transition from military to civilian employment, and is a volunteer and participant in the Sgt. Nutter Run, a 5-kilometer event hosted by the New Jersey Army National Guard’s Officer Candidate School that is named in memory of the National Guard and Navy veteran who died in 2005 of stomach cancer.

Over a two-year period, Tonya completed about 600 hours volunteering as a Girl Scout leader in elementary school activities. Thirteen-year-old Angelina had 576 volunteer hours, 11-year-old Isabella had 672 and 8-year-old Sabrina had 288 over a two-year span. 


The Association of the U.S. Army is honored to present its National Service Award to Walmart for its commitment to the U.S. military, veterans and families.

Through a grant to Operation Homefront for its Critical Financial Assistance program, Walmart Foundation has supported the financial needs of more than 1,000 military families impacted by natural disasters in 2017, helping with temporary housing costs, car repairs, bills and groceries. Walmart also helped make up the difference between military and civilian wages for some National Guard and Army Reserve members mobilized for hurricane relief and rescue efforts. Additionally, Walmart has helped families of deployed or injured service members facing financial crises and helping wounded, ill or injured service members with documented medical problems.

More than 194,000 military veterans have been hired and more than 28,000 promoted since 2013 as part of Walmart’s Veterans Welcome Home Commitment to ease the transition to civilian life for former service members. Walmart also provides training for veteran-owned businesses.

Hire Heroes USA, a nonprofit helping connect military members, veterans and their spouses with companies that are hiring, received a $1 million grant from Walmart Foundation last year, with Walmart’s senior director of military programs, retired Army Brig. Gen. Gary M. Profit, saying this was a good move for veterans and for the U.S. “As the backbone of our nation, veterans are highly valuable to civilian employers,” Profit said.

Its Military Family Promise program guarantees a job at a nearby store or club for any employee who is in the military or a military spouse if the family is transferred to a different part of the country.

Walmart is a longtime supporter of Operation Homefront, the national nonprofit founded in 2002 that builds strong, stable and secure military families by providing financial assistance, transitional and permanent housing, and family support services, all aimed at preventing small problems from becoming long-term struggles.

AUSA previously announced ABC News Global Affair Correspondent Martha Raddatz, author of the book The Long Road Home: A Story of War and Family, will be the 2018 recipient of the George Catlett Marshall Medal for sustained commitment to the men and women of America’s Armed Forces.