Director, Regional Programs
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, South Pacific Division
Department of the Army
San Francisco, California
Led U.S. efforts to help Iraqis rebuild their electrical infrastructure and acted as the Administrative head of multiple Iraqi ministries; also led Army Corps of Engineers’ recovery efforts at Ground Zero.
When Stephen Browning was leading the Army Corps of Engineers’ on-site recovery and redevelopment work in the wake of Hurricane Mitch, he surely thought that this was the worst destruction that he would ever see in his lifetime. Little did he know what lay ahead. The next few years, Browning found himself both in Iraq, where he helped to rebuild the country’s infrastructure that had been allowed to decay for decades under Saddam Hussein’s oppressive rule and at Ground Zero as the leader of the Corps’ emergency response activities. But as impossible as each new challenge might have seemed, Stephen Browning has consistently proven himself to be up to the job, no matter what it is.
It wasn’t chance that put Stephen Browning in these remarkable situations. He volunteered his services, because he felt he owed it to his country, and he knew that he could make a difference. And he did.
Browning’s contributions to our work in Iraq are virtually unparalleled by any other U.S. civilian. He was one of the first senior civilians to volunteer to serve in Iraq, as General Jay Garner, the Director of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs (ORHA), recognized Browning’s skills and enlisted him as one of the few civilians on the initial reconstruction team. Immediately upon the cessation of offensive operations, Browning was deployed to Baghdad where his leadership and diplomatic skills were again put to the test by ORHA with assignments as Senior Advisor to the Ministries of Health, Religious Affairs, Transportation and Communications, where he effectively served as the administrative head.
He would eventually serve longer than any other DoD civilian, and in August 2003, Ambassador Paul Bremer selected Browning to be the Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority’s Deputy Director for Infrastructure and Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Electricity. This assignment reflected the utmost confidence in Browning’s ability to resolve the most perplexing and important problem facing the coalition forces in Iraq: the reconstruction of the nation’s electrical system.
While Browning’s service in Iraq was truly extraordinary, it was hardly unprecedented. Browning was also at Ground Zero, just two days after the 9/11 attacks, where he worked around the clock to head up the Corps’ Urban Search and Rescue operations, structural analysis, and debris removal and disposal. While he originally came to New York to help with engineering matters, the Mayor’s office and the Federal Emergency Management Agency quickly recognized his preeminent communications skills and compassion, and made Browning the senior federal escort officer for dignitaries and family members visiting the site.
General Bob Flowers, Chief of the Army Corps, described Browning best when he said he is the epitome of “selfless service.” While some stood on the sidelines during our nation’s most challenging moments, Browning volunteered to serve at the heart of the crisis where the situation was most fluid. When faced with death threats in Iraq, he pushed forward, concerned only with his mission, not his own well-being. There’s no telling what the next great challenge to our nation will be, but we can be certain that Stephen Browning will be first in line to offer his services. And with his talents, he will surely bring skills to the table that will allow America to make it through and emerge stronger than before.
This medalists is the recipient of the International Affairs Medal. This medal was combined with the National Security category in 2008.