Offutt honors exceptional workers at picnic

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Although relatively small in scale, an event held Wednesday at the base lake was grand in purpose.

The Javits-Wagner-O'Day Appreciation picnic showed Team Offutt's support for the disabled employees who provide important services to the base.

Several hundred people attended the event to recognize more than 200 individuals. The honorees - about 80 percent of whom have limited abilities - work in teams of three to five, around the clock accomplishing custodial work in 40-plus buildings on base. According to officials, these extraordinary individual's skills are also utilized in the commissary, base dining facilities, two mail processing centers, and the base supply store.

Addressing those gathered at the picnic, Lt. Col. Roger Westermeyer, commander of the 55th Wing Contracting Squadron said, "Your pride in workmanship and professionalism has made a direct contribution to the 55th Wing's ability to accomplish our mission and prosecute the war on terror."

As part of the day's festivities, Chad Kooiker was awarded the 2005 William M. Usdane Award for the NISH Northwest Region. This award is presented annually to a severely disabled person who has excelled in the workplace. Mr. Kooiker was chosen for his dedication and superior work ethic as a custodian here.

Each JWOD program employee was also presented with a certificate of appreciation from Colonel Westermeyer prior to his receiving a JWOD Champion Award. The Champion Award is presented to government officials who go above and beyond to support the JWOD program.

The JWOD program seeks to provide severely disabled people with the skills needed and opportunity to work. The program was implemented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938 with its initial aim to provide employment opportunities to the blind. The program was later expanded to encompass those with either physical or mental disabilities to provide services to the federal government.