TSA honors its ‘Best of 2019’

National Press Release
Thursday, November 7, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC —  The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recognized the agency’s highest performers and teams of 2019 during its annual awards ceremony held at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport’s historic terminal on Thursday.  For the first time, the Blogger Bob Award was added to the Honorary Awards as a tribute to TSA blogger Curtis “Bob” Burns who passed away in 2018. The award recognizes TSA employees who have used creative solutions to build public trust, rapport and confidence in the agency.

“I am grateful for the work that the dedicated men and women of TSA do everyday to keep our country safe,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “It is a distinct honor to recognize those individuals who have gone above and beyond in their service this past year.”

Blogger Bob Award

The 2019 Blogger Bob award winner was Steven Bird of Portland International Airport, who works to partner with airline industry, cargo, mass transit and rail companies to help them understand can comply with regulations. He also takes time to connect with community organizations including Make-A-Wish, and a local organization that supports children of fallen military members – providing best travel practices to heart patients or improving the traveling experience for people with special needs, and is a member of the Portland TSA color guard, regularly being present during the return of fallen military members.

“In the Line of Duty” Award

Benjamin Martinez from California’s Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport received the Gerardo Hernandez “In the Line of Duty” Award, for bravery, valor, and heroism in the line of duty. In July, Martinez was volunteering at the Gilroy Garlic Festival when a gunman opened fire on the crowd. Hearing calls for help come across the radio, he ran towards the direction of the shooting, acting as a barrier for a woman carrying a small child and picking up people who couldn’t move fast to get them out of danger. He continued helping until police arrived, directing people to raise their hands as they fled and to shelter in place, flagging down SWAT team members to provide information about a possible second suspect.

Norman Y Mineta “Cornerstone Award”

John Migas of TSA Headquarters Intelligence and Analysis received the Norman Y Mineta “Cornerstone Award,” for exemplary leadership, while dealing with significant family medical issues in his own life, successfully led the National Transportation Vetting Center as acting operations manager, ensuring operations always adhered to standards and taking time to collaborate with mission partners and recognize employees.

Public Service Award

Lakita Thompson from the TSA Headquarters Intelligence and Analysis office received the Public Service Award, for significant volunteerism or community service. In addition to founding a non-profit organization that provides support services and mentoring to victims of domestic violence, abuse and personal crisis, she led several initiatives to help women and girls housed in local shelters through mentoring and women empowerment events.  As a member of Women Executives at TSA, she led an  annual suit drive to donate gently used business clothes for women in transition and rejoining the workforce and has coordinated holiday charity events, and “Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work” program.

Other TSA 2019 Honorary Award winners included:

  • Unsung Hero Award, for outstanding “behind-the-scene” performance: Elaine Fielder from California’s John Wayne Orange County Airport, Viviane Markley from the Washington Field Office, Michael Powell from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, Luis Viado from Los Angeles International Airport, and Bradley Weinkauf of Portland International Airport
  • Transportation Security Officer (TSO) of the Year: David Golle, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Christopher Waalkes from Denver International Airport, and Scott Yates from Arizona’s Tucson International Airport
  • Lead TSO of the Year: Stephen Johnson from Tucson International Airport
  • Supervisory TSO of the Year: Cassandra Espinoza from McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas
  • Transportation Security Manager of the Year:  Silvia Sanchez of Los Angeles International Airport
  • Coordination Center Employee of the Year: Ronald Bartsch of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport
  • Assistant Federal Security Director (FSD) of the Year: Olimpia Lynch of John Wayne Orange County Airport in Santa Ana, California
  • Deputy FSD of the Year: Kriste Jordan-Smith from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
  • FSD of the Year: Lawrence Nau from Denver International Airport
  • Canine Handler of the Year:  Lori Potoczek, with her partner Doc, from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport
  • Inspector of the Year: Lindsay Molnar from Indianapolis International Airport
  • Transportation Security Specialist (Explosives) of the Year: Michael Kimmerling from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport
  • Federal Air Marshal of the Year: Usud Syed from LE/FAMS Headquarters
  • Supervisory Air Marshal in Charge of the Year: Stephanie Metzger from the LE/FAMS San Francisco Field Office
  • Management, Administrative or Professional Employee of the Year: Christine Pope from Los Angeles International Airport
  • Passenger Support Specialist of the Year: Heather McCanna from Portland International Airport
  • Security Training Instructor of the Year: Kelsey Vine from Wyoming’s Casper–Natrona County International Airport
  • Intelligence Analyst of the Year: Brian Bean from Intelligence and Analysis at Portland International Airport
  • National Deployment Force Officer of the Year: Basak Ozdemir from Security Operations Coordination in Tampa, Florida