Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 15, 2006

DHS honors employees who excelled in Katrina response

Filed under: DHS News — by Christian Beckner on May 15, 2006

Stephen Barr’s Federal Diary column in the Washington Post last week profiled a DHS awards ceremony for employees who went above and beyond the call of duty during the response to Hurricane Katrina. While DHS certainly has its share of faults (and I don’t hesitate to point them out), I get sick and tired of the blanket negativity to which it is frequently subjected. For every Michael Brown, there are dozens of honest, hardworking people who deserve our praise and thanks for a job well done. The story recounts the work of the Department’s “gold medal winners” as follows:

Frank DiFalco , deputy director of the Homeland Security Operations Center, who worked around the clock for 30 days during the emergency and oversaw reports prepared for the White House.

Eric Gentry , a FEMA division supervisor in Mississippi who led a team that provided more than 450,000 displaced citizens with financial aid and temporary housing.

Claudia Gordon , a senior policy adviser in the office of civil rights and civil liberties, who arranged aid for disabled and elderly evacuees.

Carl Haaland , assistant federal security director for the TSA at the New Orleans airport, who led an effort to evacuate 40,000 hurricane victims.

Janet Hale , undersecretary for management, a top aide to Chertoff who pulled together resources for the Katrina response.

William Heffelfinger , deputy assistant commissioner at Customs and Border Protection who went to New Orleans to serve as the agency’s on-site commander.

Michael A. Holt , a special agent at Immigration and Customs Enforcement who launched an effort to account for displaced ICE employees in the New Orleans area.

Ashley Lewis , who headed a team that worked 12 hours a day, six days a week after Katrina to improve the accuracy of FEMA contract data being reported to the president.

Brian H. Rossito , a Secret Service agent who helped coordinate law enforcement efforts in Louisiana.

Lt. Olav M. Saboe , a Coast Guard helicopter pilot who directed the rescue of 143 people. He flew 17 sorties totaling 30 flight hours in what officials called stressful and dangerous conditions. He also discovered a school where more than 400 people had taken refuge from floodwaters and called in Air National Guard helicopters to help with the rescue.

On a related note, Ryan Erickson at CG Information points to a story in the Mobile Register about a similar Coast Guard awards ceremony.

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