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Two distinguished executives receive Presidential Rank Awards

Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew P. Donovan presents the Presidential Rank Award to Dr. Glenn E. Sjoden, Chief Scientist for the Air Force Technical Applications Center during a ceremony at Pentagon in Washington, D.C., June 14, 2019. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Adrian Cadiz)

Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew P. Donovan presents the Presidential Rank Award to Dr. Glenn E. Sjoden, Chief Scientist for the Air Force Technical Applications Center during a ceremony at Pentagon in Washington, D.C., June 14, 2019. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Adrian Cadiz)

Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew P. Donovan presents the Presidential Rank Award to David C. Merker, Director of Systems Development for the Air Force Technical Applications Center during a ceremony at Pentagon in Washington, D.C., June 14, 2019. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Adrian Cadiz)

Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew P. Donovan presents the Presidential Rank Award to David C. Merker, Director of Systems Development for the Air Force Technical Applications Center during a ceremony at Pentagon in Washington, D.C., June 14, 2019. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Adrian Cadiz)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Two senior executives from the Air Force Technical Applications Center here were recognized with Presidential Rank Awards at a ceremony June 20 held at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Glenn E. Sjoden, AFTAC’s chief scientist, and Mr. David C. Merker, AFTAC’s Director of Systems Development and the U.S. National Data Center, were presented with the award by Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew P. Donovan for their sustained extraordinary service to the Department of Defense and the United States.

The meritorious executive rank award is the second highest recognition a career senior professional can receive and is given to no more than five percent of all senior executives in any given year.

As the principal adviser to the commander on all scientific and technical matters, Sjoden successfully established consequential research and development priorities that enabled a dramatic shift in Defense Department high performance computing capabilities while leading scientific evaluations in nuclear forensics that were reported directly to the White House. Additionally, he cleared significant roadblocks to solve unique technical challenges within the nation’s nuclear detection arsenal and inaugurated the Air Force’s sole radiochemistry laboratory.

Merker was recognized for his keen oversight of the U.S. Atomic Energy Detection System and its more than 3,600 sensors located in 22 countries, on every continent, and in space. He transitioned the aging 70-year-old national nuclear monitoring mission area into an agile, proactive, modernized detection and real-time operational capability while delivering critical nuclear treaty monitoring products and services to joint warfighters, senior defense officials and national policymakers.

The selection process is a rigorous one. Once the nominee’s package is written and approved by his or her own organization, it undergoes stringent evaluation by a board of private citizens and ultimately must gain approval from the President of the United States.

“This recognition is profoundly prestigious, and limited to pinnacle leaders who have made extraordinary and long-lasting contributions to the federal government,” said Col. Chad Hartman, AFTAC commander. “Not only does this organization have one recipient it our midst, we have two. And that is an absolute testament to the deep bench of talent and leadership we have here at AFTAC. I am enormously proud of Dr. Sjoden and Mr. Merker for bringing home these admirable and well-earned titles.”

Dominic Pohl, executive director for 25th Air Force (AFTAC’s Numbered Air Force) and rating official for both Sjoden and Merker, echoed Hartman’s praise of the two senior executives.

“Glenn and Dave perform invaluable services on behalf of the American public and our allies, and have consistently demonstrated strength, integrity, and a relentless commitment to public service,” said Pohl. “They are both extraordinary leaders who have together advanced and strengthened the internationally-renowned scientific and technical reputation of the center by developing, fielding and modernizing the technical monitoring and analysis capabilities upon which the Air Force, the nation and our international partners rely on a daily basis.”

Merker redirected the praise to his coworkers.

“It is truly an honor to be nominated and chosen for senior executive presidential recognition,” he said, “but it is really an achievement I share with the men and women of AFTAC whom I’ve had the pleasure of teaming with over the last eight years.”

The Presidential Rank Awards Program was established by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 and was later amended to extend eligibility to senior career employees with a sustained record of technical or scientific achievement recognized on a national or international level. Federal law provides winners with a monetary prize – a percentage of their annual salary depending on the award category.