Employers Earn Top Award for Guard, Reserve Support
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2011 When Navy Reserve Lt. j.g. Todd Brooks leaves his civilian job at Ford Motor Co. to report for military duty, he does so knowing his employer isn’t just about vehicles.
Brooks said he and his fellow Guard and reserve comrades deploy with confidence, knowing their employer not only supports their military service, but is willing to go above and beyond to support them in their military endeavors.
Brooks was one of six employees who nominated Ford for the prestigious Freedom Award, the highest honor the Defense Department can bestow to civilian employers that support service members in the Guard and reserve.
Ford is one of 15 companies chosen to receive this year’s Freedom Award, to be presented in Washington next week by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve agency.
“Simply put, Ford Motor Co. has made it possible for hundreds of reserve and Guard employees to serve the nation in support of not only operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, but other missions throughout the world vital to national security, global stability and humanitarian assistance," Brooks said.
More than 230 Ford employees have deployed since Sept. 11, 2001, and many have served multiple deployments. In his nomination, Brooks said Ford’s support made it easier for him to perform his military job when he was in Iraq.
"Ford supported [me and my] military mission by sending 30 boxes of coloring books and stuffed animals for Iraqi children," Brooks said, noting he gave the items to children he’d met while on patrol in Iraq.
Since 2006, Ford also has sent care packages to its employees in the Guard or reserve who’ve been deployed, in addition to deployed sons and daughters of employees.
Ford understands the needs of the citizen soldier and the difficulties their loved ones face as a result of their commitment, Brooks said. For example, he said, Ford has programs to care for deployed employees’ family members.
"Serving our country would not have been possible had it not been for the unwavering support of coworkers and the many exemplary leaders who believe in nothing but absolute support for the troops,” Brooks wrote in his nomination.
This article is the second in a series of three -- each one profiling five Freedom Award-winning companies for 2011, and how they excel as supporters of their Guard and reserve employees.
Along with Ford Motor Co., the other companies include:
Hanson Professional Services Inc.
Hanson Professional Services Inc. is an employee-owned company in Springfield, Ill., specializing in engineering, architecture, planning and a range of allied services.
Named a Freedom Award finalist in 2010, the company is well-versed in how important it is to support deployed employees and to ensure their families receive the care they need. Ten percent of Hanson’s employees served in the armed forces.
"They took care of my family when I was gone," said nominator Illinois Army National Guard Maj. Craig Holan. "My boss would check in on them. I just didn't have to worry. I wish all members of the Guard and reserves could say that about their employers."
Hanson executives regularly review policies to identify ways the company can improve support for its employees in the Guard and reserve. For example, he said, Hanson helped to secure funding for two Illinois Guard initiatives.
His company’s military-support policies, Holan said, encouraged one employee to join the Guard, and another to return to Guard duty.
Holan noted in his nomination that Hanson gave pro-bono engineering assistance to a military unit in Iraq that was working on a bridge damaged by improvised explosive devices. And, when Holan was deployed, a Hanson senior vice president and his wife took Holan’s wife and young daughters on a shopping trip to pick out care-package supplies using money coworkers had collected.
The company also provides emotional support to Holan’s family, calling them regularly and providing monthly gift baskets, he said.
Integrity Applications Inc.
Integrity Applications Inc., in Chantilly, Va., is an engineering services and software development firm that primarily supports the intelligence community and other civil, defense and intelligence customers.
The company is veteran-owned, and according to Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. Darryl W. Brayman who nominated it for the Freedom Award, IAI seeks veterans and Guard and reserve service members to hire. Forty-four percent of the company’s employees are veterans, including four of the six members on the board of directors.
IAI demonstrates that supporting its deployed employees and their family members is vital, Brayman said, even to the point of encouraging him to extend his time in uniform.
“IAI’s unique policies directly influenced my decision to delay my retirement from the reserve, to remain until my mandatory retirement date,” he said.
For example, IAI offers flexible work schedules to help reserve members fulfill their drilling exercises and military schooling obligations. It also provided assistance to an employee whose deployed spouse was injured in combat, Brayman said. Company employees also contribute to organizations that benefit service members and their families, including the Fisher House Foundation, Operation Paperback, Toys for Tots and the Air Force Association.
“As a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserve, I am proud to serve, and as an employee of IAI, I could not be more proud to be part of a team so respectful of the cause of freedom and so dedicated to those who serve,” Brayman said.
Orange County, Calif., Sheriff’s Department
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department in California employs more than 3,600 personnel who serve and protect the county's residents. Since Sept. 11, 2001, 118 employees who also are Guard or reserve members have been called to active duty and received supplemental pay to maintain their county salary while deployed.
Navy Cmdr. Arthur Castiglia nominated the sheriff department for the Freedom Award.
“Not only did I receive numerous care packages from other deputies and coworkers during my two-year deployment, I was also sent … department newsletters with each packet to ensure that I remain connected,” Castiglia’s nomination said.
The sheriff's department also keeps a blog to highlight the dual careers of staff members that also serve in the Guard or reserve. Castiglia said when he returned from his deployment, the department let service members retain positions on highly competitive specialty details, which is not extended at some agencies.
"I am on the SWAT team, and I know I have a place back on the team when I return," Castiglia said. "I'm fortunate that patriotism and support of its military personnel are part of the culture at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office."
Castiglia’s Freedom Award nomination was one of four submitted by sheriff's employees who served with the Army National Guard and the Marine Corps Reserve for the Freedom Award.
Former Qwest Communications, now CenturyLink Inc.
The former Qwest Communications of Denver has been nominated five consecutive years for the Freedom Award. Qwest, recently renamed CenturyLink Inc. of Monroe, La., garnered nine nominations from its Guard and reserve employees who said they appreciated the personalized support the company gave them.
“When I was deployed, my direct supervisor called and emailed me and my wife multiple times, offering his support and sending care packages,” said nominator Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Matthew W. McGuire, who's back at work in Dublin, Ohio.
“I nominated Qwest because of its support for service member employees,” McGuire said.
Employees donated 800 hours to assemble more than 500 care packages for their deployed colleagues. A Marine Corps Reserve employee said Quest sent him nine care packages weighing 500 pounds while he was deployed, and he shared them with his unit.
Qwest also donated 500 calling cards to families of service members at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in Washington, D.C.
Qwest’s “People Care Team,” an ombudsman team for Guard members, reservists, supervisors, families and Qwest military veterans, distributed Veterans Affairs benefits information to service members in the company.
The company also recruited Guard and reserve members through job fairs and transition assistance programs and became active in the Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces, which encourages businesses to hire service members and their spouses.