CROCKETT – Hundreds of Texas A&M Forest Service employees were recognized Tuesday for outstanding contributions they’ve made over the past year – including wildfire response, recovery efforts, fire department assistance and more.

Director Tom Boggus personally thanked the agency’s 400 full-time employees at Texas A&M Forest Service’s annual personnel meeting and awards ceremony in Crockett.

“You got tested, and you passed with flying colors,” Boggus said. “Each of you demonstrates servant leadership.”

The gathering is an opportunity for employees from across the state to enjoy fellowship, games and a meal served by the agency’s executive team. A moving tribute to Texas A&M Forest Service’s all-hazard incident response was a highlight of the program, recognizing employees who have assisted with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires and more.

Forty-nine employees were recognized for five or more years of service to the agency. One employee – Joe Fox, capacity building department head in College Station – has worked for Texas A&M Forest Service for 40 years.

Special awards were issued to teams of employees for the following efforts:

Response 2011: A Year Like No Other – Wildfires burned more than 4 million acres of Texas land last year, and every Texas A&M Forest Service employee was involved in some capacity. The wildfire season lasted almost an entire year, and day after day, the agency’s employees worked long hours to ensure that lives and property were protected in the safest manner possible.

Texas Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal (TxWRAP) Development Team – Five individuals were recognized for their part in developing the Texas Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal. TxWRAP is a free tool that allows users to identify wildfire threats for a particular area based on landscape characteristics, historical fire occurrence, terrain and potential fire behavior. It also routes users to resources that can help them implement wildfire prevention practices.

Incident Finance Team – Nine employees were recognized for their work on what was referred to as perhaps the most challenging and most thankless of all the missions during last year’s complex wildfire season. The team was responsible for securing supplies, processing firefighter time sheets and tracking $300 million in expenditures related to 2011 wildfires.

Fire Department Emergency Grants Team – Six employees were recognized for their effort in processing more than $5 million in emergency grant requests. The grants provided assistance toward protective gear, equipment repairs and operating expenses for eligible fire departments – dire needs during the unprecedented 2011 wildfire season.

Post-Fire Assessment Team – This award recognized 25 individuals who assisted impacted communities and collected data about home and structure loss in the aftermath of wildfires – valuable information used to craft mitigation and prevention strategies for homeowners, community leaders and fire departments.

Bastrop Recovery – Forty-four Texas A&M Forest Service employees were honored for their work on the recovery effort after wildfire damaged 32,000 acres in Bastrop, including 96 percent of the state park. The team created a technical program to provide assistance to fire-devastated forest landowners in Bastrop County.

Drought Assessment – This award recognized 137 participants who studied the impacts of the 2011 drought, which experts say was one of the worst in state history. Employees who worked on this team measured hundreds of plots, determined how many trees were killed by drought and estimated the value of drought-related losses. A public education campaign offered i