CBP Recognizes Outstanding Employee Performance during Commissioner’s Annual Awards Ceremony
WASHINGTON—U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) held its annual Commissioner’s Awards Ceremony on Wednesday to recognize employees for remarkable deeds and accomplishments for the period of October 1, 2016 to December 31, 2017, in five categories: Leadership, Invictus, Integrity, Heroism and Valor.
“As Commissioner, my greatest honor is working alongside the outstanding men and women of CBP, and yesterday I recognized eight exceptional personnel who demonstrated the highest level of commitment to protect and serve the United States last year,” said Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. “Beyond yesterday’s ceremony, I recognized a total of 252 employees with Commissioner’s Awards for their unwavering commitment, their selfless dedication to duty and exceptional service to our mission and the American people in 2017.”
This year’s recipients are:
- Leadership Award
- Vernon Foret, Area Port Director, Area Port of New Orleans, Louisiana
- Ann “Erin” Mercer, Project Manager, Office of Facilities and Asset Management, San Diego, California
- Invictus Award
- Salvador Sanchez, Border Patrol Agent, U.S. Border Patrol, Imperial, California
- Anthony Stokes, Aviation Enforcement Officer, Air and Marine Operations, Jacksonville, Florida
- Integrity Award
- Rene Guajardo, CBP Officer, Office of Field Operations, Progreso, Texas
- Medal of Honor for Heroism Award
- Israel Borjas, Border Patrol Agent, U.S. Border Patrol, El Paso, Texas
- Meritorious Service Award for Valor
- Matthew J. Matrosky, Air Interdiction Agent, Air and Marine Operations, Yuma, Arizona
- Benjamin Lopez, CBP Officer, Office of Field Operations, El Paso Field Office
The Leadership Award recognizes a supervisor for outstanding leadership ability who best exemplified leadership competencies to forward the mission of CBP.
During the 2017 hurricane season, Area Port Director (APD) Foret oversaw emergency response efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands during Hurricanes Irma and Maria. APD Floret and his team worked around the clock to perform wellness checks, conduct rescue operations, reinstitute the supply chain to the islands and perform other critical humanitarian efforts.
Ms. Mercer managed several high profile projects, including the expansion of the Air and Marine Operations Center (AMOC) in Riverside, CA. As a direct result of Ms. Mercer’s commitment and the skill she applied to the expansion of AMOC, the project was completed 18 months ahead of schedule.
The Invictus Award recognizes employees who have triumphed over personal tragedy.
On July 26, 2017, Border Patrol Agent Sanchez experienced a seizure after returning from work. Following two brain surgeries, Agent Sanchez had no movement on the entire left side of his body. He is currently detailed to the El Centro Sector Honorfit Program and participates as a CrossFit Instructor where he plans daily workouts, assists others during workouts, offers nutritional guidance and the modification of workouts to assist those with limitations. Agent Sanchez has made his health a priority through healthy meal planning and rigorous workout routines. He maintains a strong mental attitude and does not let his body give in to any of his discomforts. Agent Sanchez’s commitment to his own health and recovery has served as a tremendous motivator and inspiration to the workforce.
Aviation Enforcement Agent Stokes was shot on September 26, 2017, by an 18-year-old who was about to go to jail for selling drugs. Despite tremendous pain and suffering, Agent Stokes fought to survive and then displayed incredible resilience throughout his 100 physical therapy sessions. He has since returned to work to make a continued impact at CBP.
The Integrity Award recognizes an employee who clearly demonstrated work habits and devotion to integrity that are above reproach and exemplified by CBP’s core values and ethical standards while on duty.
On August 14, 2017, CBP Officer Guajardo was tasked with relieving a former CBP Officer from his vehicle primary commitment when questionable actions by the former officer were relayed via electronic systems. Officer Guajardo quickly took control of the situation, ensuring that the vehicle and passengers in question were appropriately screened. Once in secondary inspection, one of the passengers attempted to flee into Mexico but was apprehended and arrested. During questioning, it became apparent that one of the passengers had paid the former officer to allow vehicles through without proper inspection. Officer Guajardo’s quick thinking and actions were instrumental in the federal prosecution of a corrupt CBP Officer.
The Medal of Honor for Heroism Award is awarded to an employee or any individual/citizen supporting CBP who performed an act of extraordinary bravery, gallantry or valor while on or off duty. The act performed must be: above and beyond the call of duty; present an imminent and personal danger to life; and the individual must have knowledge of the risks involved and voluntarily assume them. This is CBP’s highest valor award.
On October 31, 2017, Border Patrol Agent Borjas was conducting maintenance near a storm drain when he heard a male voice call out for help from inside the drain. Agent Borjas and his teammates lifted the drain cover and observed a male subject who stated his wife was inside the storm drain and unable to move because of a broken ankle. Agent Borjas voluntarily and without hesitation entered the storm drain and located the injured female. The tunnel height prevented Agent Borjas from walking out with the woman, even in a crouched position, so he picked up the injured woman and placed her on his back. Crawling on his hands and knees on uneven, rugged surfaces through a tight storm drain with limited lighting, Agent Borjas carried the injured and severely dehydrated woman to safety, despite the danger posed to himself.
The Meritorious Service Award for Valor recognizes an employee who demonstrated exceptional courage while on or off duty and displayed valor in a dangerous, life-threatening situation involving efforts to save another person’s life or the protection of property.
On February 16, 2018, Air Interdiction Agent Matrosky was the Pilot in Command of an EC120 Light Enforcement Helicopter assigned to a routine aviation patrol when his crew member became unresponsive. Suddenly, the crew member’s body began to shake uncontrollably, making contact with the flight controls of the aircraft. As Agent Matrosky fought for control of the aircraft, he was able to maintain focus and request medical assistance for his crew member. Agent Matrosky elected to land on Arizona State Route 85, where a Border Patrol agent met the aircraft and transferred the crew member into a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle for transportation to a local hospital. The entire event, from the crew member becoming unresponsive to landing the aircraft safely on the ground, lasted just four minutes. The event demonstrates Agent Matrosky’s courage and leadership, and exemplifies crew resource management through adverse conditions.
On August 18, 2017, CBP Officer Lopez was performing primary inspection duties at the Paso Del Norte in Port of El Paso when he encountered a distraught and suicidal traveler. The traveler approached Officer Lopez, removed a box cutter from his pocket, then held the blade up to his own throat and threatened to kill himself. Officer Lopez decisively reached out and took control of the subject’s hand, removing the box cutter from his possession. After disarming the subject, he secured the subject and escorted him to a holding area where the subject was kept under observation until emergency medical personnel and local authorities could respond. Officer Lopez demonstrated exceptional courage and valor in a dangerous, life-threatening situation for himself and members of the traveling public.
The individuals recognized yesterday are among a total of 252 recipients of a Commissioner’s Award for demonstrating the highest level of commitment to protect and serve the U.S. and exemplify the values of CBP.
Additional photos from Wednesday's event are available on CBP's Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/gp/cbpphotos/SU08dZ
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between official ports of entry. CBP is charged with securing the borders of the United States while enforcing hundreds of laws and facilitating lawful trade and travel.