By Sonya Campbell

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON - Bell County Sheriff Dan Smith presented his department's annual awards during the Commissioners' Court regular meeting Tuesday.

The meeting was delayed a day due to the Presidents Day holiday.

During the presentations, the sheriff began with acknowledging officers who have served with the BCSO from two to 25 years.

Deputy David Burnham was the sole recipient of a 25-year pin.

Three employees received 20-year pins - Curtis Nichols, Marco Villarreal and Henriette Vogal.

Ten were recognized for serving 15 years, seven for 10 years, 12 for five years and 25 for two years.

The sheriff noted the importance of retaining good employees and said his department has taken steps to do that, including hiring people who are specifically interested in careers in law enforcement and corrections, and creating an enjoyable working environment.

County Judge Jon Burrows commended the sheriff's office and its employees and told Smith the Commissioners' Court is aware of the strains they face due to a growing population.

"We know the strain under which you operate. … We appreciate what you are doing," he said.

Commissioners Tim Brown and Richard Cortese echoed the judge's sentiments.

Brown described the sheriff's office as a "point of pride for all of us."

Other awards included:

Top Gun employee: Investigator Steve Ramirez earned the Top Gun award, which is given to the employee in the Patrol and Jail Division who qualifies for Top Gun competition by scoring in the "Master" range during the annual firearms qualifications. Finalists "go head-to-head in a tense and high-pressure shooting competition" until one man or woman is left undefeated.

Certificate of Appreciation: Ramirez also received a Certificate of Appreciation for "exceptional job performance" during a particular assignment or event.

"Last year ... the agency was able to purchase and issue duty weapons for all commissioned personnel," the sheriff said. "Once funding for the program was secured through the 2010 Justice Assessment Recovery Program, Investigator Ramirez was tasked with researching, testing and procuring the best weapon for our needs. ... This task required him to train and certify nearly 100 individuals as competent with their newly issued weapons."

Physical Fitness Award: During 2010, about 40 employees volunteered to participate in a health and wellness program, and awards were presented to those who met or exceeded the minimum standards. Those recognized were Justin Camp, Frank Espinal III, Gerald Jenkins, Agustin Silva, Eddie Crain, Gary George, William Montgomery and Anthony Sinclair.

Other recognition: Letters of Appreciation were presented to eight instructors who assisted with training and firearms qualifications, and to preparers who assisted with three jail academies.

Certificates of Appreciation were awarded to 10 instructors who assisted with the 100 percent pass rate for all three jail academies last year.

Lt. Danny Kneese served as training coordinator.

Contact Sonya Campbell at or (254) 501-7585.

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