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September 14, 2012

Observances

Visual Information manager receives diversity award

The Fort McCoy Visual Information manager was the recipient of the installation’s 2012 Excellence Through Diversity Award.

Karen Birkeness of the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS) was honored with the award at the Aug. 23 observance of Women’s Equality Day.
PHOTO: Karen Birkeness, the Fort McCoy Visual Information manager, accepts the Excellence Through Diversity Award from Garrison Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Rich Harvey. Photo by Anita Johnson
Karen Birkeness, the Fort McCoy Visual Information manager, accepts the Excellence Through Diversity Award from Garrison Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Rich Harvey, following the Women’s Equality Day presentation..
(Photo by Anita Johnson)

Equal Opportunity Adviser Master Sgt. Matthew Fitzgibbons said the award is presented to someone who furthers the status of women, minorities and individuals with disabilities, who provides training opportunities, and who serves as a mentor to women and minorities in the federal work force. The award also honors professional career contributions due to reliable and quality performance of assigned duties or personal contributions, such as rendering active support to community activities.

Birkeness, who has more than 25 years of federal service, has a record of promoting opportunities for women and individuals with a disability, said Brad Stewart, director of DPTMS, who nominated Birkeness for the award.

About 60 percent of the Multimedia/Visual Information (MM/VI) work force is comprised of women and individuals with disabilities, Stewart said.

Among Birkeness’ accomplishments was to take action to improve her effectiveness as a supervisor by completing a sign-language course and coordinating for interpreter services.

“Karen has fostered an environment that enables these employees to take advantage of training opportunities and to reach their full potential to contribute to the organization,” Stewart said.

Gretchen Buehler, an MM/VI employee, said Birkeness always has supported her needs to have sign-language assistance.
“She always made sure I would be provided a sign-language interpreter at many trainings and meetings,” Buehler said.

“When no sign-language interpreter was available, then she would take notes for me to read. She also communicates with me in sign language, too, (to help ensure I understand something).”

In accepting the award from Garrison Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Rich Harvey, Birkeness credited the “incredible people who work in MM/VI.”

Birkeness said she began to realize she would receive the award when she heard the information about the sign- language course and coordinating for interpreter services.

“Actually, it’s wonderful to be in a workplace where people aren’t thought of as having disabilities or thought of as having a specific gender,” Birkeness said. “You actually forget about that because you really do work with them and know them just as people. And that’s what matters.”

“And it has been wonderful these last 25 years. It goes fast,” Birkeness said. “It’s been my pleasure and honor to serve the Army and all of you.”

As a result of the MM/VI staff’s hard work, Birkeness and her organization enjoy an exceptionally high level of customer satisfaction and consistently receive accolades for the exceptional quality of their work, Stewart said.

The work quality is a direct reflection of her ability to enable each individual to perform at their very best.

On behalf of Garrison Commander Col. Steven W. Nott, Harvey presented the award to Birkeness, with several of her staff members in attendance to provide support.

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