LANL awarded Patriot Award for Guard support

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By Roger Snodgrass

Melvin Borrego dodged incoming rockets and survived routine threats of daisy-chained roadside bombs in Iraq.

He’s a sergeant first-class for the 1115th transportation company of the New Mexico National Guard. His company has also been called up for humanitarian missions in the states for hurricanes Katrina and Rita and snow-disaster relief in Chama last winter.

His regular job is working as a research tech supervisor at the Lujan Neutron Scattering Center, where he customizes instruments, machines vacuum applications and stages pretty much whatever neutron experimenters need to conduct their tests at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

On Tuesday, Monitor Publisher Ralph Damiani, chairman of the Los Alamos Chapter of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, presented the organization’s Patriot Award to Alan Hurd, group leader of the Lujan center, for supporting Borrego through the thick and thin of his military duties.

Deputy Laboratory Director Jan Van Prooyen attended the award ceremony in the Louis Rosen Auditorium of the Los Alamos Neutron Scattering Center.

“It is appropriate for the lab to look after its employees who are citizen soldiers who have served their country,” Van Prooyen said during the event.

“Since they began, there have been fewer than a dozen of these awards given in New Mexico – ever,” Damiani said afterward.

Hurd said Wednesday that the award recognizes the laboratory, including Borrego’s supervisor Paul Lewis, Ron Nelson, Jim Rhyne and others at the lab who have done what they could “for Mel.”

“The basis of the recognition is the lab’s policy that extends certain benefits to servicemen,” Hurd said. “Our part was writing the memos and getting the signatures and understanding the policies, so Mel could do this job.”

Borrego said there was a lot more to it than that.

“If it wasn’t for my employers, Hurd and Lewis, I wouldn’t have been able to do it,” he said.

“When I was in Iraq, the care packages meant everything to me. They took care of my wife and any issues I had here at work. Any concerns about my job, they’d email me and let me know that we’d just go from where we’d left off when I got back.”

He said the hardest part for an employer is the sudden calls.

“When something happens, that snow storm in Chama, for example, it’s like a days notice,” he said. “These guys say, ‘Go ahead, Mel. We’ll make do.”

Borrego nominated the laboratory for the award.

Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) is a national organization affiliated with the Department of Defense that works to encourage and develop appreciation for employers for supporting the military service of their employees.