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AUSA Announces National Award Winners

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U.S. Army
Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Association of the U.S. Army has announced the recipients of its 2020 National Awards, which honor individuals for their selfless service and dedication to the Army and its soldiers.

“We at AUSA are really proud of this year’s National Award recipients,” said retired Gen. Carter Ham, AUSA president and CEO. “From a group of extraordinary nominees, we have selected recipients whose selfless service and unparallel accomplishments best exemplify the ideals we celebrate at AUSA.”

The awards will be presented at the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition. The event, which was converted to a virtual event because of COVID-19 health and safety concerns, will take place Oct. 13–16.

While AUSA will not be able to recognize this year’s recipients in person, “we will find a way to appropriately acknowledge these great people as we transition this year’s Annual Meeting to a virtual platform,” Ham pledged.

Abrams Medal

The General Creighton W. Abrams Medal for exceptional service to the U.S. Army will be awarded to retired Gen. Richard Cody and his wife, Vicki.

Cody, a 1972 West Point graduate and master aviator who retired in 2008 as the Army vice chief of staff, is known as a soldier’s soldier and an aviator’s aviator, serving more than 36 years in uniform and commanding at all levels and serving in six of the Army’s combat divisions.

After retiring from the Army, Cody served for 10 years as a senior vice president at L3 Technologies. He also is chairman of the board for Home for Our Troops, a nonprofit founded in 2004 that provides new, specially adapted, mortgage-free homes to wounded troops. To date, the group has built more than 295 homes nationwide, with the goal of building a home for every qualified veteran, according to the group’s website.

Cody also serves with several other organizations, including the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, the George C. Marshall Foundation and Hope for the Warriors, and he is the founder and lead pilot for Operation Flying Heroes, which provides flights for wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Vicki Cody is an Army spouse and mom, with two sons serving as pilots in the Army. She is a coach and mentor for other Army spouses and an advocate for Army families.

She is the author of Your Soldier, Your Army: A Parents’ Guide, first published by AUSA in 2005, and Your Soldier, Your Army: A Family Guide, which was published by AUSA in 2017.

Her memoir, Army Wife: A Story of Love and Family in the Heart of the Army, was published in 2016 and it received the 2016 USA Best Book Award for narrative non-fiction and was a finalist for the 2016 Foreword Indies Book of the Year in the military/war category.

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. Lance Lehr of AUSA’s General of the Army Omar N. Bradley chapter in El Paso, Texas.

Lehr, who served in the Army for more than 32 years, continues to serve and support soldiers, their families and veterans in the El Paso area.

“Lance’s love of soldiers is what pushes him every day to do something to make soldiers’ time in El Paso and Fort Bliss better,” said John Baily, AUSA’s Fourth Region vice president-educate, who nominated Lehr for the award.

As president of AUSA’s General of the Army Omar N. Bradley chapter, Lehr focused on taking care of enlisted soldiers at Fort Bliss, Baily said.

“He has worked tirelessly to help develop an understanding between the El Paso community and the Fort Bliss soldiers,” Baily said. “He wants to help the community understand the needs of the soldiers and their families and how the community can meet these needs.”

Lehr regularly conducts NCO professional development sessions with units on Fort Bliss, recently helping the 1st Armored Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team prepare for a rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.

He is also a founding member of the Alliance for Regional Military Support, a group that works to support troops at Fort Bliss and nearby White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base.

Among the issues he’s most focused on are troops’ quality of life concerns and post-service employment and education opportunities. During his tenure on the El Paso Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee, Lehr got the city to change its hiring policies to make sure veterans are included in the interview process and produced a survey to better understand the needs of local veterans.

“Lance has worked hard to educate employers about the value of service members who are separating or retiring from the service,” Baily 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 Mary Trier, president and CEO of Capital Communications & Consulting.

Trier has been actively involved with AUSA since her time in the Army’s Program Executive Office-Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, or PEO-STRI, where she was a liaison between the organization’s leadership and AUSA’s Sunshine chapter. 

After retiring, Trier became involved in the Orlando, Florida-based chapter’s activities, rising to become chapter president from 2008 to 2010. During her two-year term, the chapter was twice named Best Chapter in the national category of its size.

She served as Third Region president from 2012 to 2016, traveling extensively to visit the region’s chapters, spearheading numerous fundraisers and programs for soldiers, and ensuring close communication between local chapters and AUSA’s national leaders.

She currently serves as AUSA’s South-Florida state president, remains active in the Sunshine chapter and was recently named a board member for the Gary Sinise Foundation’s Orlando chapter.

“Her sincere honesty and concern for the soldiers and AUSA membership were consistently evident in all her actions while serving as the Sunshine chapter and Third Region president,” members of the Sunshine chapter wrote in her nomination.

She is highly respected and dedicated and has served as an adviser and confidant, said Kris McBride, the current Third Region president. “Mary’s heart is in this, and it shows in everything she does,” McBride said.

Cribbins Medal

The Joseph P. Cribbins Medal for exemplary service by a Department of the Army civilian will be awarded to Mark Sullivan of the U.S. Army Financial Management Command.

A retired command sergeant major with 23 years of active-duty service, Sullivan began a new career as an Army civilian in 2009. In his current job, he helps plan and execute military pay actions supporting contingency operations, develops Armywide policies and procedures, and coordinates with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and various organizations within the Army.

He also helps ensure wounded soldiers assigned to Warrior Transition Units receive the correct pay and entitlements and is regularly tapped as a subject-matter expert on finance issues by senior leaders inside and outside of the Army.

Sullivan recently developed a four-day course for human resources professionals across the Army on the new Integrated Personal and Pay System, or IPPS-A, teaching the training pilot class at four installations to validate the course material.

Sullivan is no stranger to AUSA, serving as treasurer and secretary of the Korea chapter from 2009 to 2016. During that time, he organized cross-country runs and fitness challenges in the local community, free movie nights at the post exchange theater and delivered free pizza to soldiers during the holidays.

After returning to the U.S., Sullivan became involved in AUSA’s Indiana chapter, organizing its annual golf outing and soldier and NCO breakfast. He coordinated the chapter’s drive to collect clothes and food for homeless veterans in the area and organized Operation Indiana Care Package, an effort that in the past two years has sent more than 800 care packages to troops deployed overseas.

Sullivan also volunteers with other local groups, tirelessly working to improve his local community.

Dixon Award

The John W. Dixon Award for outstanding contributions to national defense from industry will be awarded to Eileen Drake, CEO and president of Aerojet Rocketdyne, an El Segundo, California-based company that develops and manufactures advanced propulsion and energetics systems.

Aerojet Rocketdyne is an AUSA National Partner and active participant in AUSA events and at the national and chapter levels. Under Drake’s leadership, the company also supports Operation Gratitude and the American Red Cross’ Service to Armed Forces program.

A former Army officer and aviator, Drake is a proud supporter of the Army’s mission and soldiers and has built strong relationships with Army and DoD leaders. Her commitment has been steadfast during the COVID-19 pandemic, as she led a comprehensive response to ensure employees could stay safe and continue working.

“Throughout these years, Eileen has never forgotten her roots as an Army aviation officer, and she continuously applies the experience of her personal service to our company’s pursuit of excellence,” John Schumacher, senior vice president for Washington operations and communications for Aerojet Rocketdyne, said when nominating Drake. “Eileen’s personal example inspires our employees to serve those who serve by producing the most reliable technology efficiently and on time.”

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 retired Command Sgt. Maj. Karen Craig.

Craig, who served in the Army and Army National Guard for 35 years, is a longtime supporter of state and national advocacy for enlisted troops, first joining the Enlisted Association of the National Guard in Arizona and then AUSA’s Arizona Territorial chapter.

She remained an active member of both organizations while she continued to serve in uniform, culminating as the senior enlisted soldier for the Arizona Army National Guard.

After her retirement in 2009, Craig joined the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, where she continues to work today.

A member of AUSA since 1997, Craig facilitated an agreement, signed in December 2017, between AUSA and EANGUS to form a partnership to support the National Guard. She is active in efforts to advocate for better benefits for Guard troops and has been president of EANGUS since August 2018.

Craig also is an active community volunteer, including with the local food bank, the Arizona Special Olympics and the committee that plans the Phoenix Veterans Day parade.

“With her steadfast belief in AUSA’s vision, mission and goals, Karen’s enthusiasm as an action-oriented volunteer, and her total dedication to soldiers and their families are truly remarkable attributes that have had far-reaching impact across America’s Total Army and within the Army’s professional association, AUSA,” said retired Col. Jeanne Blaes, president of AUSA’s Arizona Territorial chapter, who nominated Craig.

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 Lt. Gen. Charles Luckey, who retired this summer after a 43-year career.

For the past four years, Luckey was chief of the Army Reserve and commander of U.S. Army Reserve Command. During his tenure, Luckey “moved the Army Reserve to a new state of operational readiness, transforming the posture and capability of its forces … to a component that is ready to quickly respond to evolving threats from multiple sources, including peer and near-peer competitors,” said Stephen Austin, of the Office of the Chief of the Army Reserve, who nominated the general for the award.

Luckey developed and oversaw Operation Cold Steel, the largest and most comprehensive individual and crew-served weapons gunnery training exercises in the history of the Army Reserve, Austin said. Cold Steel expanded the component’s collective training capability and increased Army Reserve and Army National Guard integration in numerous training exercises.

He postured the Army Reserve to respond quickly to natural disasters in support of local authorities, and when the COVID-19 pandemic revealed a shortage of medical personnel in hospitals across the country, Luckey created a new unit made up of medical and support soldiers.

The Army Reserve generated 17 and deployed 15 of these Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces, mobilizing nearly 3,000 soldiers in less than 72 hours to support hospitals in the hardest hit parts of the country, Austin said.

Volunteer Family of the Year Award

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 Staff Sgt. Casey Raines of the 91st Military Police Battalion at Fort Drum, New York.

Raines, his wife, Brittany, and their six children—Kamden, Mason, Brooklyn, Caleb, Caiden and Bentley—dedicate countless hours to their community.

As a family, the Raineses set up, sort and distribute donations every summer for Operation Homefront’s Back to School Brigade, which collects backpacks filled with school supplies for military kids.

The family of eight also helps with Operation Homefront Holiday Meals, sorting food items, loading bags and distributing them to families in need.

In October 2018, the Raines family founded Warm Up Watertown. The family collects scarves and hats, and during the cold winter months, they hang the collected items on light poles, benches and other locations around Watertown with a note asking those who need them to take them.

Individually, Casey Raines volunteers with the North Country Spouses’ Club, his company Soldier and Family Readiness Group and the Fort Drum Girl Scouts. He also is a wrestling coach with the Indian River Pee Wee Wrestling Club.

Brittany Raines collects and distributes donated toys to children of Fort Drum soldiers every holiday season, is a leader in the Soldier and Family Readiness Group for the 91st MP Battalion, serves as community outreach coordinator for the North Country Spouses’ Club, is active with the Fort Drum Girl Scouts, and volunteers with several other groups in the area.

The Raines children, who range in age from 13 to 5, volunteer as well, including in church, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and the USO. 

The family was nominated by AUSA’s Northern New York-Fort Drum chapter.

AUSA National Service Award

AUSA is honored to present its National Service Award to Robert Irvine, renowned chef, fitness authority and philanthropist who is an active supporter of the troops and the military.

Irvine, who is known for his pioneering cooking shows Dinner: Impossible and Restaurant: Impossible, has hosted or appeared on numerous Food Network and ABC shows, written four books on food and nutrition, launched the digital Robert Irvine Magazine, and in 2014 founded The Robert Irvine Foundation.

Through the foundation, Irvine raises money to support veterans and active-duty service members by funding programs to address visible and invisible wounds. Some of the foundation’s key programs include funding the training of service dogs, serving meals to troops and their families, funding counseling for first responders, providing mobility devices to wounded veterans and issuing grants to veterans in need, according to the foundation’s website.

Irvine actively participates in troop rallies held by the Gary Sinise Foundation, regularly tours with the USO to visit deployed troops, and is a member of the board of directors for the USO’s DC-Metro chapter.

His restaurant, Fresh Kitchen by Robert Irvine, is a popular lunch spot in the Pentagon.

Irvine, who joined the British Royal Navy when he was 15 and learned to cook during his service, often says he’s proud of the work soldiers do in defending America—and he’s happy to give back.

“I want the men and women who wear the cloth of our nation to know that people care … that we support them, their families and the mission,” Irvine said during a visit to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, last fall.