Financial Company Supports Its Citizen-Soldiers
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 2006 For years, Pioneer Financial Services Inc. has served a large pool of military customers.
What has not been immediately recognizable, however, is the company's dedication to its employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve.
Pioneer was recognized for its superior support of Guard and Reserve employees as one of 15 companies to receive the 2005 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.
With only 300 employees, Pioneer was one of the smallest companies to receive the award, which made the honor even more special, said Tom Holcom, president of Pioneer Services.
"It meant a lot to us that somebody cared enough to make the submission," Holcom said.
Pioneer has four employees currently serving in the reserve component, said Julie Schaller, chief people officer for Pioneer. These employees receive a host of benefits when they are activated or deployed, including salary differential for up to two years, quarterly bonuses, and cell phone and Internet use, she said.
Pioneer also works hard to support the families of deployed employees, Schaller said. The company employs a family support coordinator, who communicates with the deployed employees and their families, and assists them with anything they need, she said. The family support coordinator sends birthday cards, arranges for catered holiday dinners, and is always available for the families to contact, she explained.
Pioneer has also set up video e-mail capability in the homes of deployed employees to facilitate communication with the deployed family member, Schaller said.
"It's been quite successful and it's fairly exciting," she said. "Most of them are thrilled by that."
Army Maj. Richard McNorton, a regional manager for Pioneer and a 20-year Army veteran currently deployed to Iraq, said Pioneer has supported his family while he's been gone. The company has sent several care packages to his wife and also set up video e-mail in their home so they could keep in touch, he said.
As an added perk, Pioneer sent McNorton a care package on his birthday and paid for a weekend getaway in New Orleans for him and his wife before he deployed, he said.
McNorton is the employee who recommended Pioneer for the Freedom Award. He said he did so because the company is in the top of its class when it comes to supporting the military.
"The company culture is focused on improving the quality of life for servicemembers and their families," he said. "When I told some of my fellow officers about my benefits, they immediately asked me if we were hiring. I knew then that Pioneer was a special company."
Because Pioneer serves a military audience, the company knows how to support their employees in the National Guard and Reserve, Schaller said.
"We're really in tune with what those people need," she said. "We know that if we help them this way, they can concentrate on the task that's ahead of them, wherever they are."
Pioneer is happy to support its National Guard and Reserve employees, because having these employees benefits the company and helps it serve the military, Holcom said.
"Because our business is helping military families, we find it's imperative that we have the knowledge, the passion and the compassion to serve them," he said. "We think we're not only a military-friendly company, but a military-friendly employer."
When Holcom traveled to Washington, D.C., for the award presentation in October 2005, he said he was so moved by the stories he heard from other employers that he went back to Pioneer's Kansas City, Mo., headquarters committed to spreading the word about supporting the National Guard and Reserves to his fellow civic leaders. The company set a goal to raise the number of companies who sign a five-star statement of support with the Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve by 50 companies, Holcom said.
"We owe it to the military families to spread the word," he said. "We would hope that other companies would step forward and do the same for their Reserve and Guard (employees) that we do."