Distinguished guests, Red River Army Depot members, family and friends gathered on Tuesday, Sept. 1 to honor 549 RRAD employees with the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Global War on Terrorism.

The medal recognizes the contributions and accomplishments of the civilian workforce of the Department of Defense in direct support of the armed forces, whose members are engaged in operations to combat terrorism.

"Every one of these great Americans we honor here today and the close to 550 that are still over there deserve our recognition, our respect and our love," said Lt. Gen. James H. Pillsbury, deputy commanding general of the Army Materiel Command. "There's no other place that's participated on the ground, in-theater as much as Red River Army Depot."

Employees must be engaged in direct support for 30 consecutive days, 60 nonconsecutive days, or regardless of time, be killed or medically evacuated from the area of eligibility while providing direct support in the designated operation and location. The first medals were presented to 14 DoD civilians on February 26, 2008 during an unveiling ceremony held at the Pentagon. To date, RRAD is the only installation to hold a ceremony honoring this many recipients with the Global War on Terrorism Medal.

"There's a show called American Idol that's out but you all are my American Idols," said Pillsbury. "Red River is known for getting MRAPs into the hands of Soldiers and at this current time, there's no higher calling."

The majority of the recipients receiving the medal directly gave support to the MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle program. RRAD began deploying civilian personnel to various locations in Iraq and Afghanistan in June 2007 for maintenance of the MRAP vehicles.

"Forty-five percent of all AMC civilians deployed came from one depot - Red River Army Depot," said Michael Viggato, deputy to the commander, TACOM Life Cycle Management Command. "You've accomplished more than keeping vehicles running. You are all doing phenomenal work."

This was Viggato's first visit to RRAD since he joined the TACOM team three months ago.

"I will not be a stranger to this depot," he said. "I believe in it and the rest of the Army does too."

Pillsbury, Viggato, Jim Dwyer, AMC G3/5 director of support operations and RRAD Commander Col. Daniel Mitchell presented awards to several honorees. Depot supervisors and division chiefs presented medals as well. Local mayors and county officials were also on hand for the prestigious ceremony.

"I was reading an MRAP newsletter and it said 21 months, 77 shipments, 11,322 MRAPs, countless lives saved," said Mitchell. "You're saving lives on a daily basis. The fact that some have deployed many times shows your dedication to the Warfighter."

During the ceremony, Pillsbury asked for a show of hands for anyone who has deployed or knows someone who has deployed. "No other industrial operation in DoD has the ability to show as many hands as RRAD," he said.

Ceremonial music was provided by the United States Army Medical Command Band Brass Quintet Quintuple Bypass from San Antonio, Texas, under the direction of Sgt. 1st Class Scott Krbec. Maj. Robert Keck was narrator for the ceremony.

"Soldiers get a lot of recognition, as they deserve, but recognizing the contributions our civilians make to the war effort - in some ways they're the unsung heroes," said Mitchell.

Following the ceremony, the official party toured the depot.

"I have seen the power of LMP," said Pillsbury. "Three years from now Red River will be even more efficient than now."

The visitors also toured the MRAP Egress Trainer (MET) line and the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle Egress Assistance Trainer (HEAT) line allowing Pillsbury, Viggato and Dwyer to ride in both egress trainers.

"This is very impressive," said Pillsbury. "You have no idea how you (the workers of egress trainers) impact our Soldiers."

While visiting the HMMWV production line, Pillsbury referred to area as being "neater than dirt." He talked with many employees throughout the day thanking them for their work and dedication to the Soldier.

"This was the best day I've had in long time," said Pillsbury. "Your people are busy and happy; you are doing what you need to do. This is a world-class production operation and you are doing the right things."