Sunday, December 30, 2012

MDSGA Selects New Staff Sgt. (MDDF) Edward L. Salas Memorial Enlisted Soldier of the Year

By CPT (MDDF) Stephen Rice
Maryland Defense Force Public Affairs
30 December, 2013

The Maryland State Guard Association (MDSGA) has recently selected their new Enlisted Soldier of the Year named in honor of former Staff Sgt. (MDDF) Edward L. Salas who passed away in 2011. At the recent MDSGA Holiday Ball, Sgt. (MDDF) Karen Holmes was selected to receive this prestigious award and replace the reigning 2011 award winner, Staff Sgt. (MDDF) Paul Swenson. The award is given by the MDSGA upon the recommendation of the Maryland Defense Force (MDDF) Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) Council.

Staff Sgt. (MDDF) Swenson, the outgoing award winner was selected in December 2011 for his selfless service and outstanding contributions to the MDDF. Staff Sgt. (MDDF) Swenson is a founding member of the MDDF Band where he plays the French Horn, as well as supporting the MDDF Band Drumline on bass drum. In addition, Staff Sgt. (MDDF) Swenson served as the lead developer of the refreshed MDDF web presence, which he continues to support on an as needed basis. He was also an early member of the MDDF Rapid Action Team. Staff Sgt. (MDDF) Swenson is also the recipient of the MDDF Achievement Medal.

In the civilian world, Swenson is a lead systems engineer working onsite at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland supporting the upcoming LADEE lunar mission launching in August, 2013. He also plays Alto Horn with the Federal City Brass Band (a Civil War reenactor band), and is an avid skier. MDDF Band commander, Maj. (MDDF) Jari Villanueva recently commented that “Staff. Sgt. Swenson has been invaluable to the success of the MDDF and the band in particular.”

Sgt. (MDDF) Karen Holmes, the incoming award winner was selected for her dedication, professionalism and tireless commitment to the MDDF. Sgt. (MDDF) Holmes currently serves as the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) NCO as well as the administrative coordinator for the MDDF Honor Guard Detachment. Capt. (MDDF) Darrell Hervey, the MWR officer stated that “Sgt. (MDDF) Holmes has gone the extra mile to support the well being of MDDF personnel and is very deserving of this honor.”

In her civilian career, Sgt. (MDDF) Holmes is a federal government safety officer and active volunteer. She works with the American Red Cross for the National Capital Region. Working with the Red Cross, she is part of the Disaster Action Team and oversees MASS Care for the Prince George’s County chapter. She has also served in the Medical Reserve Corps and as a volunteer for the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission Park Police.

Col. (MDDF) Michael Barrett, president of the MDSGA said that, “The MDDF is blessed to have a strong NCO corps that serves as the backbone of our state reserve component.” “It is an honor for the MDSGA to support the MDDF and recognize these outstanding individuals.”

The Maryland Defense Force (MDDF) is the State’s uniformed volunteer military unit providing professional and technical assistance to the Maryland Military Department. Established in 1917, the MDDF consists of nearly 450 personnel who perform legal, engineering, finance, medical, chaplain, field support and ceremonial services for the State of Maryland. For more information: