|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.
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
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
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
“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
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.