Mississippi Valley Division Awards Day

Published June 18, 2012

The Mississippi Valley Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, held its annual awards ceremony Friday, June 15th. The following awards were presented:


Mr. Larry E. Banks was inducted into the Gallery of Distinguished Civilian Employees.

The Gallery of Distinguished Civilian Employees was established in 1970 as a means of recognizing outstanding retired civilian employees of the Mississippi Valley Division. Mr. Banks was the 55th inductee to the gallery since its inception.

Prior to his retirement in January 2006, Mr. Banks provided more than 36 years of dedicated service to the Mississippi Valley Division and Mississippi River Commission. During the last five years of his tenure at the MVD/MRC, Mr. Banks served as the Chief of the Watershed Division, Programs Directorate, where he was responsible for the oversight of all water management, river engineering and coastal activities within the division. He was also the principal water advisor to the Mississippi River Commission.

Mr. Banks consistently assumed a front-line leadership role before the general public - addressing controversies concerning flood impacts, reservoir regulation, navigation pool impacts and environmental impacts of water resources projects. This included serving as the official flood spokesperson for the Vicksburg District during the 1997 flood event - personally conducting technical portions of several large media events, live TV and radio talk shows, and public meetings. 

Mr. Banks was a primary technical advisor for the successful plan to unwater the New Orleans area following Hurricane Katrina. He effectively managed key water control decisions in the world's third largest watershed to maintain and protect the interests of the Mississippi Valley. Mr Banks was renowned for his ability to relate to and communicate with stake holders, partners and the press.


The Blankenship awards are among the highest honorary awards presented to Mississippi Valley Division employees by the local commander. The awards cover three categories:  engineer/scientist, professional and technical/administrative. Established in 1987, they remember and honor the commitment, dedication and knowledge of the long-time Mississippi Valley Division Executive Assistant who died in 1973.

Engineer/Scientist Award

Mr. Steve Jones received the Ernest P. Blankenship Engineer/Scientist Award for the superior performance of his duties as Deputy Chief of Operations Division. In that capacity, Mr. Jones was responsible for all operational activities within the division’s 370,000-square-mile boundary. Throughout the past year, Mr. Jones’ technical knowledge of the operations program, as well as his leadership and human resource management skills, were tested daily in the overall management of this vast program – which includes 4,200+ miles of commercial waterways, 35 flood control lakes, 59 pumping stations, more than 8,000 miles of levees and numerous other infrastructure critical to the economic vitality of the Mississippi Valley region. The navigation responsibilities alone represent one-third of the United States’ inland waterways.

Mr. Jones is recognized throughout the Corps of Engineers as an operations subject-matter expert, as evidenced by frequent requests for his service on various national boards, working groups, regional teams, etc.

Throughout the year, Mr. Jones demonstrated his ability in delivering the division’s multi-faceted operations mission with excellence. His contributions to navigation and the division’s operations mission were significant and critical to the division’s successful year.

Professional Award

Ms. Beth Guynes received the Ernest P. Blankenship Professional Award for the superior performance of her duties as Chief of the Regulatory Program.

The division’s regulatory program has a tremendous workload associated with its diverse and substantial civil works programs. Last year, the division’s regulatory program authorized 8,700+ permits, 15,000 jurisdictional determinations, 600+ unauthorized enforcement cases and 1,100 permit compliance inspections. Under Ms. Guynes’ expert leadership and management, the national goal (50%) was significantly exceeded (66%) for permits issued in less than 120 days. On general permits, 95% were issued within 60 days (national goal was 75%).

Ms. Guynes was instrumental in how we deliver our regional regulatory mission. Her leadership and guidance with regard to the division’s Regulatory Customer Survey was outstanding with customer satisfaction ratings of 4.8 (on a scale of 5). Ms. Guynes was also a key leader in guiding the development of significant regional standardized processes that improved MVD’s regional consistency.

In addition to her normal responsibilities, Ms. Guynes also assumed the task of heading up the Mississippi Valley Division’s pilot program for green house gas emissions. Phase I of the program was a success due primarily to Ms. Guynes’ professional attitude and leadership abilities. Building on the success of the Phase I pilot, Ms. Guynes also led the Phase II pilot which initiated development of the division’s green house gas carbon footprint. Her leadership and performance in both these pilots resulted in MVD leading the Corps in this environmental mission area.

Administrative Award

Ms. Debbie L. Johnson received the Ernest P. Blankenship Technical/ Administrative Award for the outstanding performance of her duties as the Administrative Assistant for the Watershed Division.

During the past year, Ms. Johnson was a model employee, always going the extra mile to get the job done. In addition to her normal duties in Watershed Division, which included maintaining timekeeping records and preparing travel orders, travel vouchers, purchase orders, credit card purchases, and the office budget, Ms. Johnson also performed most of these same functions to help support the Operations Field Group during the absence of clerical staff. She also provided these services to the Science & Technology Office and the Civil Works Integration Office for much of the past year. Her timely and capable completion of these duties contributed significantly to the successes and accomplishments of the Watershed Division.

Ms. Johnson also significantly contributed to the success of numerous MVD programs and activities throughout the year - such as the annual Combined Federal Campaign (serving as chairperson), the Corps Day awards ceremony and picnic, and open house events.   


The MVD Woman of the Year Award was established in 1990 to give special recognition to the woman who has evidenced outstanding achievements in her career field, assistance to other women in their advancement, guidance to youth and outstanding community service. 

Mrs. Janet H. Clark, a Program Analyst in Programs Directorate, received the 2012 Mississippi Valley Division Woman of the Year Award. 

During the past year, Mrs. Clark’s contributions were invaluable during the historic 2011 flood, which required short and long-term funding analyses, constant tracking, and viable recommendations on the Mississippi River and Tributaries program. She was an outstanding team member and her value to the Mississippi Valley Division was widely recognized and appreciated throughout the division headquarters and its six district offices. Mrs. Clark’s professionalism and team spirit were ever present throughout this challenging period. 

Mrs. Clark also served as a role model for other female employees. She began her career as a student in 1972 and advanced to her current position during her 35-year federal career. She served as an example and mentor for other program analysts and vigorously adhered to high standards of personal integrity.


Mr. Dennis Norris was the recipient of the Commander’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Equal Employment Opportunity.

During the past year, Mr. Norris provided a long-term developmental assignment for a Hispanic female that led to her becoming a branch chief in the Vicksburg District. He ensured she had quality assignments that would position her for advancement and that she had developmental opportunities to enhance her skill level. He also provided training and support of developmental assignments to two other minority employees in his work unit. He was instrumental in a Black female achieving the Women of Color Rising Technology Award - encouraging and nominating her for the MVD Emerging Leaders’ Program; supporting her training initiatives for professional and personal development; and providing her the opportunity to serve as Deputy Chief of the Vicksburg and Memphis Districts’ Support Team. Mr. Norris also provided opportunities for a Black male to attend conferences and workshops at the national level, District Support Team meetings, district leaders’ conferences and the Corps’ Project Managers conferences. These activities will enable the employee to be more competitive for promotional and other developmental opportunities. Mr. Norris always engaged the Equal Employment Opportunity Office in decisions related to staff and position changes.


20 employees, representing 465 years of federal service, received length of service certificates ranging from 5 to 40 years of service.

Bob Anderson

Release no. 12-010