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Soldier Credits Civilian Employer for Military Success

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 12, 2009 – Army Command Sgt. Maj. Rob Lawrence’s position as the Colorado National Guard’s top enlisted soldier is underscored by nearly 25 years of steadfast support from his civilian employer.

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Army Command Sgt. Maj. Rob Lawrence of the Colorado National Guard speaks prior to Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. signing a proclamation making 2009 the Year of the NCO in Colorado, June 2, 2009. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Cheresa D. Theiral
  

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No matter what his military mission has been, First Data Corp.’s loyalty to part-time soldiers never ceases to amaze him, Lawrence said. Such efforts have earned the Greenwood, Colo., payment processing company recognition as one of the most supportive civilian employers of reserve-component military members and a 2009 Department of Defense Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Freedom Award.

Lawrence nominated First Data for the award after returning from his most recent Iraq deployment. He requested certificates of appreciation for the company and presented them with American flags that were flown over his Baghdad headquarters. But he wanted to make sure people knew what a great supporter First Data is and continues to be, he said.

“I nominated First Data for a Freedom Award because, as I returned from another deployment last year, it made me appreciate all over again the great support that my employer continues to give,” he said.

Lawrence has been a devoted employee of First Data Corporation since 1982, and he became a soldier in the Colorado Army National Guard in 1985. Over the course of his dual career, he said, First Data’s support has allowed him to be a fully dedicated soldier, while still affording him the opportunity to advance within the company.

Much like his success in the National Guard, Lawrence started from the bottom and worked his way up in First Data. The former mailroom clerk is now the director of vendor relations for the company. He ensures global sourcing vendors comply with federal rules for financial institutions.

During the span of his military service, Lawrence has been mobilized and activated for a number of operations and deployments. He served in support of Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989, operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991, and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004 and again in 2008.

He’s also been called to duty for numerous state humanitarian missions involving major fires and blizzards. And as the state’s senior noncommissioned officer, he frequently visits Colorado reserve-component soldiers and airmen deployed throughout the world with full support of his employer, he said.

For his most recent visit to Colorado troops in Kuwait and Iraq in July, First Data provided Lawrence with an international BlackBerry so he could stay in contact with his family as well as on top of his First Data responsibilities, he said.

“It is truly a cooperative situation where I feel [First Data Corp. and the Guard] share my time, skills and abilities equally,” Lawrence said.

First Data’s support of the military began well before Colorado Guardsmen were being activated for the war on terror after Sept. 11, 2001, he said. The company always has been a strong supporter of the military’s state and federal missions by continuing benefits for families and employees and implementing company policies specifically for reserve-component troops, he said.

In his Freedom Award nomination, Lawrence explained how First Data continues health care, legal and education benefits for employees called away on military duties, as well as for their families. The company also has ongoing training and policies to provide insight to managers and supervisors on the needs and rights of its citizen-soldiers and -airmen, he said.

Even if company officials don’t fully understand employees’ military missions, their support never wavers, he added.

“Over my years of association with the National Guard and First Data Corp., I have had the pleasure of the support of the company whether they truly understood my military role or not,” Lawrence said. “Personally, the greatest impact of the First Data Corp.’s understanding and support of my military service has been the blessing to continue to serve my state and this nation in the highest capacity possible.”

ESGR was established in 1972 to promote cooperation and understanding between reserve-component members and their civilian employers, and to assist in the resolution of conflicts arising from an employee's military commitment. It is the lead Defense Department organization for this mission.

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Related Sites:
Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve
Special Report: 2009 Employer Support Awards

Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Command Sgt. Maj. Rob Lawrence, far right, and other noncommissioned officers representing military services in the state watch as Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. proclaims 2009 as the Year of the NCO in Colorado, June 2, 2009. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Cheresa D. Theiral  
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