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Manufacturing Company Employees Unite to Support Guard Coworker

By Sara Moore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 20, 2008 – When they found out one of their own was going to deploy overseas with the Tennessee National Guard, the leadership and employees of Lochinvar Corp. didn’t waste any time. They immediately found out what they could do to help, and they worked together to help him and his unit before, during and after the deployment.

The deploying employee, Army Sgt. 1st Class Bill Jacobs, who was an Apache helicopter platoon sergeant with the National Guard and a manufacturing engineer manager with Lochinvar, was so impressed with the level of support he received that he nominated the company for the 2008 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.

Lochinvar, a manufacturing company specializing in water heaters, boilers, pool heaters and storage tanks, is one of 15 companies selected to receive the award.

When the president of Lochinvar, Bill Vallett Jr., found out about Jacobs’ deployment, he assured him his job would be waiting for him when he got back and then asked what else the company could do to help. Right away, Lochinvar donated $2,000 to help start up and support the unit family readiness group.

When Jacobs deployed in February 2006 to Afghanistan, Lochinvar’s 400 employees decided to “adopt” him and his unit. They organized a drive to collect items that the troops requested, such as headlamps, DVDs, books, hard-to-get goods and food. Lochinvar ended up sending 15 large boxes, which even included 200 pounds of topsoil, grass seed and fertilizer to build a small plot of grass at the unit command post.

“It is hard to describe the pride I had in the company, and the overwhelming thanks of the soldiers,” Jacobs said of his feelings upon receiving the shipment. The grass was a unique touch, he said. His unit had the only plot of grass in Kandahar, and it gave a taste of home to soldiers, airmen and NATO forces throughout the task force, he said.

Lochinvar’s support didn’t end there, Jacobs said. The employees sent two more shipments to his unit during the deployment. One was at Christmastime and included cards for every soldier, wrapped presents, enough goods for distribution to other units in the task force and a 6-foot-tall Christmas tree with ornaments and lights. The other was in the summer and included inflatable pools, which offered welcome relief from the searing heat, he said.

Lochinvar also sent a shipment of hundreds of stuffed animals to hand out to children in Afghanistan, Jacobs said. The employees also kept in touch with Jacobs and his fellow soldiers and featured updates on the unit in the company newsletter.

Vallett credits his employees for the support, saying they went “above and beyond” in their efforts to support Jacobs and his unit. “We’re very proud of our employees and their involvement in the support of the troops,” he said.

While Jacobs was deployed, Lochinvar continued his full salary and benefits and provided two salary increases he was scheduled to receive. The company also kept in touch with his family and included them in company functions.

When Jacobs returned from his deployment, Lochinvar continued supporting him by checking on him and his family and helping him make up for missed payments to his retirement fund, he said. The employees, still eager to show their support for the troops overseas, found a new servicemember to adopt: another coworker had a daughter in the Marines who was deployed to Iraq.

Jacobs recently retired from the military, but is still going strong with Lochinvar.

“The people and the management are outstanding and truly make working here enjoyable,” he said. “I have been provided the opportunity to make a difference in the operation, direction and success of the company.”

Employees with military training and experience benefit the company with their knowledge and discipline, Vallett said, and he and the rest of his employees are happy to support them in their military careers.

“I think it’s pretty simple. Certainly, it’s a tremendous sacrifice for the National Guard and the disruption that they have in their life to go and fight for our freedom,” he said. “They’re sacrificing so much; we can sacrifice just a little to support them.”

Lochinvar will receive the Freedom Award along with 14 other companies in a ceremony Sept. 18 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center here. The Freedom Award was instituted in 1996 under the auspices of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve to recognize exceptional support from the employer community.

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Related Sites:
National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve
Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award

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