LOS ANGELES - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District awarded about 750 contracts worth more than $556 million in fiscal year 2018.

Employees were honored for those achievements during an End-of-the-Year celebration Oct. 3 at the District's headquarters office in downtown Los Angeles. The District's area offices in California and Arizona joined the event via video teleconference.

Col. Aaron Barta, commander of the Los Angeles District, acknowledged the hard work of employees leading up to the Sept. 30 end-of-the-fiscal-year deadline.

"The days are long, but the year goes by fast, and a lot has been accomplished," he said. "I want you to step back and give yourselves a pat on the back for the great work you have done."

Barta highlighted some of fiscal year achievements and ongoing projects, including hiring 71 new employees at the District, including veterans; building border infrastructure; military construction work; and ongoing construction for three Southern California Veterans Affairs hospitals, including facilities in Los Angeles, San Diego and Long Beach.

"What more can we do to serve our nation than to take care of our veterans," he said. "It's really about reaching out, giving back to the community, big Army and the military. We did a great job laying the path forward for Veterans Affairs, so they can focus on taking care of people and not worrying about the construction itself."

He also discussed the District's accomplishments in regard to building and renovating military facilities, which, Barta said, help keep servicemembers focused on their jobs.

"We are the Army Corps of Engineers, but we are the federal builders of our nation," he said. "That contract to renovate that building - that's what they live in. That airfield - that's their world; that's their mission ... You guys have come through for them - helped them to do their jobs better; provided services to them. When you see the statistics, appreciate what you've done and what it really means when we start talking dollars and cents."

Additionally, he told them to take pride in their accomplishments and all of the behind-the-scenes work they have done to make things happen.

"The harbors, the dredging, the beach studies - all of those things that help us, as a nation, run and maintain itself," he said. "When you see the ships coming in and out (of the ports and harbors), when you see the (people recreating on the) beaches on the weekends, know the Corps of Engineers helped make that happen. The things that people take for granted that you guys look at, study, follow the laws, show the science - it's all because of the great accomplishments that you guys have done."

As the District turns the page to fiscal year 2019, Barta told employees not to get wrapped up in the statistics, but to focus on delivering for the people.

"The purpose of the harbor is to provide for the people; the purpose of restoration is to provide for the people and the economy," he said. "As long as we continue to focus on the end state - delivering to the people - the dollars, cents and timelines will fall in line. You've done a great job in demonstrating what the big picture is, and that's us serving our nation."

In addition to celebrating numerous project completions throughout the District, more than 35 employees were recognized as Year-End Heroes for their contributions to the organization and about a dozen employees were presented with Third Quarter awards during the ceremony.

John Lee, Resource Management, was presented with the Kevin Inada Employee of the Quarter award for his work while deployed in support of the Northern California wildfires, as well as his continued support of the LA District during that time.

The award was named after Kevin Inada, the District's former deputy chief of the Construction Division, who died in 2012. The award is given to employees who demonstrate traits exemplified by Inada during his time with the District. Inada was known for his "taking care of people" philosophy.

Other awards presented during the Third Quarter ceremony included the Pillar, Compass, H2O, Outstanding PDT Member and Rising Star awards.