Mississippi Valley Division Awards Day

Published June 5, 2015

Mississippi Valley Division Awards Day

VICKSBURG, Miss., June 12, 2015 -- The Mississippi Valley Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, held its annual awards ceremony June 11 where the following awards were presented:


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. Brian Chewning received the Ernest P. Blankenship Engineer/Scientist Award for exceptional performance of his duties while serving as deputy for the Lower District Support Team, with primary responsibility as the division’s point of contact for the Memphis, Vicksburg and New Orleans districts. 

He also served as the senior program manager responsible for directing and leading the coordination of all activities in the lower three districts that required Mississippi Valley Division and/or higher U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) action. 

Mr. Chewning’s leadership helped advance planning initiatives for Calcasieu Lock, West Shore Lake Pontchartrain, Southwest Coastal, Quiver River, and Memphis Metro feasibility studies. He also led the reviews for approval of numerous decision documents.

Mr. Chewning provided timely guidance for review and development of the New Orleans District’s Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System decision documents to allow solicitation of mitigation and armoring contracts. 

Mr. Chewning’s knowledge and leadership were instrumental in furthering the efforts and accomplishments of the projects and programs of the Memphis, Vicksburg, and New Orleans districts. His leadership helped advance planning initiatives, reviews for approval of decision documents, and execution of complex policy and authority issues.

Professional Award

Mr. Bob Anderson received the Ernest P. Blankenship Professional Award for the outstanding performance of his duties as the Mississippi Valley Division and Mississippi River Commission public affairs officer.

Mr. Anderson assisted with the design, implementation and deployment of an on-line planning tool that allowed project managers and public affairs officers across the Corps of Engineers to create strategic communication plans based on the strategic communication process. 

He used the tool to create or improve more than 20 strategic communication plans for key Mississippi Valley Division projects including topics related to aging infrastructure, invasive species, drought, flooding and hurricane response.

Mr. Anderson served on the Corps headquarters national steering committee for public affairs, and in this role he helped create and manage the Public Affairs Rising Star Program for promising new leaders in the public affairs career field.

He and his team worked with the Mississippi Valley Division commander to improve storyboard communication tools for key projects and programs to help the division leadership effectively and proactively share the division’s critical issue narratives with members of congress and other influential regional leaders within the Mississippi River watershed.

His initiative and diligence produced an outstanding public relations campaign that provided partners and the public insight into the projects of the division and the commission.

Administrative Award

Mrs. Cindy Simmons received the Ernest P. Blankenship Administrative Award for the outstanding performance of her duties as administrative assistant for Business Management and Business Technical divisions.

During the past year, Cindy produced top quality products and services in a challenging environment. She was the only administrative employee who supported two separate divisions.

Her administrative support included maintaining property accountability, requisitioning supplies and services, maintaining a government purchase card, preparing travel orders and vouchers, initiating personnel actions, preparing budget documents and ensuring proper records management. These efforts were complicated by the fact that many of the employees traveled frequently, one was a virtual employee, and there were several people serving on temporary developmental assignments.

When the division implemented new time and attendance procedures, Cindy ensured all employees in both divisions were trained and ready to enter their time when the new system became operational.

Cindy worked hard to make the transition of new employees seamless and efficient. From processing the necessary personnel paperwork to ensuring office space was set up, computer and phone access requested and operational upon their arrival, and myriad other details that allowed the employees to begin work immediately. 



Ms. Tonya Acuff, chief of Regulatory, was the recipient of the  Mississippi Valley Division Woman of the Year Award.

Over the past year, Tonya served as a key regional leader in guiding development of standardized processes to improve regional consistency in the regulatory program, re-baselined general regulatory funding within the region (the first Corps division to complete this action), served as the division’s sustainability program manager, and was instrumental in selecting the first Corps of Engineers region-wide energy savings center.

The regulatory program has a tremendous workload associated with the division’s very diverse and large civil works programs. The consummate professional, Tonya earned the respect of her peers, subordinates, senior staff, higher headquarters and congressional staff for her customer focus and drive to get the job done right and with excellence.


Four employees were recipients of the Department of the Army Achievement Medal for Civilian Service: Alicia K. Bounds, procurement analyst in Contracting; Katie S. Shows, finance and accounting officer in Business Resource Division; Terry S. Smith, deputy chief and regional strategic planner for Business Management Division; and Scott Whitney, regional flood risk manager in Operations Division.


27 employees, representing 585 years of federal service, received length of service certificates ranging from 5 to 40 years of service.


Bob Anderson

Release no. 15-006