Air Force Lt. Col. Derek Oliver and Vernita Anderson-Manning are the first recipients of the Eagle Award - a new Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command award created to highlight excellence within the command and "challenge the status quo." Oliver is the deputy chief of staff for Personal Property, and Anderson-Manning is a lead traffic management specialist with SDDC's Strategic Business directorate.

"There's some viral change going on here," said Maj. Gen. Kevin Leonard, SDDC commanding general. "There's a group of folks who have decided the status quo isn't good enough. They've decided, on their own, that they're going to take on change."

Leonard said "change" is an integral part of the SDDC culture, and "excellence" will fuel that change.

"This command is full of excellent people," he said. "I was wandering the hallways just the other day, and you know what I found' I found excellence. I found people solving problems and getting the mission done."

The general said one evening, while he was sitting in his home, he thought, "How can I recognize this excellence'" He said the answer was spontaneous. It was also sitting right in front of him. He grabbed two crystal eagle statuettes from his home and brought them to work.

With that, SDDC's new Eagle Award was born.

But every award must have a recipient, and if you're the first recipient, you had better be good. According to Leonard, the first Eagle Award recipients are very good.

"I presented [Lt. Col. Derek Oliver] one of those eagles and told him, 'This recognizes your excellence.' He carries a whole lot of weight on his shoulders and he never complains," Leonard said. "Basically, the entire Personal Property Program is on the back of this one Air Force lieutenant colonel. That's pretty awesome."

Leonard entrusted the second crystal eagle to Michael Williams, SDDC's deputy to the commander, and asked Williams to find a civilian employee who best represents "excellence."

During a command and staff meeting April 13, Williams presented the second Eagle Award to Anderson-Manning, who was recognized for her accomplishments while migrating GATES and Worldwide Port System functionality into a single port management system servicing aerial and surface ports -- a significant milestone toward furthering joint distribution operations.

The convergence of both air and surface capabilities into a single Port Management System was directed by U.S. Transportation Command in 2006. GATES supports the USTRANSCOM Port Automation Initiative by providing SDDC, the Department of Defense, and commercial partners with automated sea port functionality to process, track and clear cargo.

"Because it's an excellence award, and because it's new, I feel special because it just so happens that I'm working a program that's also a first for [SDDC]," added Anderson-Manning.

Although the Eagle Award is in its infancy and the specific requirements haven't been finalized, the general said it will be a traveling trophy of sorts, with two new recipients selected every 30 to 45 days. Also, one crystal eagle will be presented to a military member, while the second eagle will be awarded to a civilian employee. Furthermore, the general said each award will be accompanied by a logbook in which each recipient will write something about themselves.

Although the specifics of the Eagle Award haven't been firmed up, Leonard believes the concept is right on target.

"This is a way for Mike Williams and me to reach down into the formation and let others know that we see their excellence," the general explained. "How do you build change within an organization' Honestly, you have to do it one troop, one person, at a time, and it will grow over time; viral change never ends. This idea of rewarding excellence, that's what it's all about."