The man in charge of Savannah River Site's canine security has been told that he's a good boy, yes, he is, he's a good boy as he received the treat of being named Employee of the Year by G4S GS, the parent company of WSI-SRS.


Site security contractor WSI-SRS has announced Lt. Paul Gerstenberger, canine section Supervisor for WSI-SRS at SRS, has been honored.


WSI-SRS, formerly know as Wackenhut, is a subsidiary of G4S Government Solutions. The Company has provided security services at the SRS since 1983.


A 26-year veteran of security at the DOE-owned site, Gerstenberger was selected from a pool of 15 final candidates, one for each security contract held by G4S GS. The company has a staff that exceeds 8,400 total employees.


However, the award is not something that was an aim, or even one Gerstenberger was aware of.


“Its quite a surprise, it's certainly not something you sit there and think,'Next year, I'm gonna be Employee of the Year.' In fact, I wasn't too much aware that there was an award given out or know someone else within our company that had won it. To me, it's just every day I try to go to work, do the best that I can and push the boat as hard as I can for the boss.”


However, the innovative and now lauded programs he put in place made him stand out, according to G2S GS representatives.


“Paul's canine skills, Protective Force leadership and mission focus make him uniquely qualified for this prestigious award,” said Paul Donahue, G4S GS president and CEO.


Gerstenberger was a key figure in leading the efforts supporting a successful DOE assessment of WSI-SRS. In addition, his initiative to train canine handlers on administering subcutaneous injections for their working dogs was recognized by the ISMS team and by the U.S. Army Veterinary Clinic as a model program, and it resulted in substantial cost and time savings.


“Due to his vast knowledge and reputation for professional excellence, he was hand-picked by the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy to serve as a committee member developing certification standards for all law enforcement canine programs,” according to an WSI-SRS release. “As a trainer and program manager, Paul's skills are unmatched. Again this year all teams under his tutelage passed all United States Police Canine Association (USPCA) certifications. Two of the canine teams were selected for competition in the National USPCA Trials, finishing in first and third Place in their categories and combining for a first Place team finish.”


This competition included participants from local law enforcement agencies (i.e., Aiken County Sheriff's Office, Aiken Department of Public Safety, and Richmond County Sheriff's Office) and out-of-state law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Pentagon Police Department, District of Columbia Police Department and Raleigh (NC) Police Department. In addition, his coordination and detailed work to host the annual USPCA Region 2 Spring Trials resulted in laudatory comments from all judges and numerous participants.


In times of austerity cuts and budget shortfalls, Gerstenberger implemented an initiative to purchase partially trained working dogs at a significant cost savings and then completed the required training on site for each canine to pass its first USPCA certification.


“One concept was, lets go ahead and purchase a partially trained dog and finish his training out at SRS,” Gerstenberger said. “It's a two fold (benefit), not only saving money, its more gratifying for the trainer, they are more vested into the dogs final training.”


The WSI-SRS Canine Program is recognized throughout the regional law enforcement community for professional excellence.


“The Canine Program is a critical element of the Protective Force, and Paul ensures the canine teams are always ready to conduct the mission effectively,” said Randy Garver, WSI-SRS senior vice president and General Manager. “His initiative to cross train and certify handlers resulted in an increased level of support for the site.”


Before going private, Gerstenberger served eight years in the U.S. Air Force, where he performed both law enforcement and patrol/detector dog handler duties. In addition, he served as an instructor to the Department of Defense Dog School at Lackland Air Force Base. He achieved the level of “Master Instructor” before departing the military, and then worked for private kennels, training patrol/detector dogs (narcotics & explosives) and providing canine handler training.


Paul joined WSI-SRS in November 1986. During his 26 year tenure at the Savannah River Site, he has served as a Security Inspector, Law Enforcement Traffic Officer, Zone Operations Facility Sergeant, Shift Lieutenant, Canine Trainer, and Canine Supervisor.


“Gerstenberger is an innovative leader who cares for his troops and accomplishes the mission,” added Garver. “There is no better choice than Paul to receive the honor of G4S GS Employee of the Year.”