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Georgia Department of Corrections
Homer Bryson, Commissioner

Director of Public Affairs
Joan Heath

Contact: Lisa Rodriguez-Presley
(478) 992-5219


For Immediate Release

2014 Bobby Franklin Award Winner Named - Michael Whitteker and the Long Unit Fire Team Honored

FORSYTH, Ga. — The Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) presented Michael Whitteker with the Bobby Franklin Award at the 11th Annual GDC Awards ceremony on July 7 at the State Offices South at Tift College in Forsyth, Ga. 

“The Department is proud to honor Michael and the men of the Long Unit Fire Team with this prestigious award,” said Commissioner Homer Bryson.  “Their bravery and determination prevented the loss of life and their actions are truly admirable.”

The Bobby Franklin Award was created to honor the memory of Correctional Officer Bobby Franklin of the Colwell Probation Detention Center.  Officer Franklin died on August 20, 2003 while deployed in Iraq.  He was a Staff Sergeant with the 210th National Guard Military Police in Franklin, NC and voluntarily lengthened his tour of duty to remain with his troops. He began his career with the Department of Corrections in 1987. 

Michael Whitteker and the Long Unit Fire Team have been awarded the Bobby Franklin Award for their heroic acts in the face of danger.  On December 30, 2014, the Long Unit Fire Team, Station #8, responded to a residential fire, in which two children were presumed to be trapped.  After a brief survey of the scene, Michael sent in three inmate firefighters in search of potential victims. Shortly after they entered the structure, debris fell from above causing the firefighters’ personal protective gear to ignite and melt. Seeing this, Officer Whitteker pulled Inmate Firefighters Vargas, Miller and Carter from the structure and assisted in putting out the fire of their protective gear and removing it. Because of his quick action the men sustained only minor burns.  As a result of their selfless service, Chief Gene Lane of the Jesup Fire Department acknowledged their heroic acts and thanked the Long Unit for the support of their fire team.

Several key officials were on hand for the ceremony, which was attended by more than 200 guests.  Making the award presentation with Commissioner Homer Bryson were Assistant Commissioner of Administration & Finance Scott Poitevint, Assistant Commissioner of Facilities Division Timothy C. Ward, and Board of Corrections Chair Rose Williams.

The GDC has one of the largest prison systems in the U.S. and is responsible for supervising nearly 55,000 state prisoners. It is the largest law enforcement agency in the state with approximately 10,500 employees.

For more information on the GDC call 478-992-5247 or visit

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