MILTON — Naval Air Station Whiting Field’s Morale Welfare and Recreation Department attended the National Recreation Park Association’s annual conference in September in Baltimore, Maryland, as Gold Award finalists. The Gold Award went to Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler in Okinawa, Japan, but Whiting Field brought home a Gold Award finalist trophy.

NAS Whiting Field’s MWR was the only stateside military installation and the only Navy installation to be nominated as a Gold Award finalist.

The awards program honors communities throughout the world that demonstrate excellence in parks and recreation through long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development and agency recognition.

Agencies are judged on their ability to address the needs of those they serve.

The program includes seven classes: five based upon population, one for state park systems in odd-numbered years and one for armed forces recreation. To be considered for the award, agencies submit an application of 10 essay questions, long term plans, an organizational chart and a current asset listing.

The base's MWR Department submitted an application in March 2019, and were announced as one of four finalists in the Armed Forces Class at the end of April.

MWR serves the military members and their families at Whiting Field with recreational, physical fitness and family activities such as campouts, movie nights, library activities, and many other events geared toward enhancing a family community.

“We are producing great programs and continually updating our spaces. It was imperative to me that the team understand that they are excellent recreation professionals,” said Katie Prestesater, MWR receation director, said.

As a finalist, the MWR team created a video that showcased the population that they serve and ways that they serve that population.

Prestesater attended the conference with Whiting Field MWR Director Tom Kubalewski to represent the NAS Whiting Field’s MWR staff.

“Not only do we get to network with our colleagues throughout the armed forces, but we get to learn from professional agencies from all over the U.S. that are doing great things in their communities,” Kubalewski said. “Every aspect of a park and recreation program is highlighted.”

“It is an honor to have our team’s work recognized on a national stage,” Prestesater added.