BANGKOK, THAILAND.—U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Eric G. John presented the prestigious U.S. Department of State Franklin Award to Alfred Johnson of Olympia, Washington today in recognition of his ongoing work to assist the joint efforts of the U.S. and Thailand in Improvised Explosive Device safety and awareness.
Mr. Johnson developed and leads a pioneering Explosive Hazard Subject Matter Expert Exchange program with Royal Thai Police, Military, and Private organizations. In addition, Mr. Johnson was selected to represent the U.S. on the first non-medical mission to the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos since 1975.
Thailand currently encounters more IEDs in its three southern provinces than Afghanistan. In January of 2007 a series of eight bombs went off in Bangkok during New Years, and bombings continue to occur throughout Thailand from both criminal and terrorist activity. Mr. Johnson’s program addresses search, detection, reaction, and response to IEDs for all of Thailand’s first responders, military, and police. The program has been delivered to the Thais both by the Washington State National Guard’s unique EOD team and RISC Managements subject matter experts. Mr. Johnson is a dedicated supporter of the project due to the benefits for not only the Thais but Americans as well. “The program not only supports the Thais in developing life saving response protocols to IED and other terrorist incidents, but the American first responder community who can learn from Thailand what modern terrorism is capable of and how best to prepare, prevent, mitigate and respond to it.”
The Benjamin Franklin Award recognizes that all sectors of American society – individuals, schools, foundations, associations, and corporations – actively contribute to advancing America’s ideals around the globe through public diplomacy. This award, to be next presented in Spring 2009, recognizes the outstanding international leadership and contributions made by U.S. citizens and organizations.
Announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in January 2007, the Benjamin Franklin Award for Public Diplomacy is the most prestigious honor that the Department of State can bestow on U.S. citizens and non-governmental organizations. Benjamin Franklin Awards are presented in four categories: individuals, corporations, academic institutions, and not-for-profit organizations (i.e., foundations, associations, labor unions).
Al Johnson was selected from over 100 applicants because of the almost immediate, lifesaving impact of his work, his unique ability to bond with and get Thais from multiple agencies and walks of life to learn and work together, and his untiring dedication above the normal call of duty. Mr. Johnson serves in Thailand with the RISC Management company based in Lacey, Washington, as company commander in the Washington State National Guard, and as a volunteer in order to make the project not only a success, but the role model for other Embassy programs worldwide. He credits his ability to bring not only the US and Thais together, but Thais themselves to his background in the Northwest. “Growing up in a unique community here in the Pacific Northwest allowed me to look at different cultures and see how they operate on a social level with each other and how they interact with other communities. In the Army EOD Field, I learned how to conduct training for critical life saving effectiveness and efficiency. By bringing both of these together into a system, it allows us to adapt critical information regarding a very lethal problem and begin to deliver it to groups with different organizational structures and personnel with different backgrounds effectively.”
Mr. Johnson currently works with RISC Management out of Lacey, Washington which in partnership with ASERO of Washington DC trains American 1st Responders on IED Awareness, Security Search, Explosive Hazard Mitigation, and terrorist tactics and strategies using IEDs. He is also commander of Washington State’s 319th EOD, where he spent a year in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.
“Few individuals displayed the true character of America to the world better than Benjamin Franklin. In the same spirit of Franklin, this award will recognize the broad spectrum of businesses and foundations and non-governmental organizations and private citizens for their outstanding contributions to America’s public diplomacy and we hope to highlight the exceptional and to inspire others.”