Article by Amanda Bicknell, Region VII External Affairs Specialist and David Teska, Region VII Facilities Manager
On June 13, FEMA Region VII received the “Patriot Award” and the “Above and Beyond Award” from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, which is the lead advocate within the Department of Defense for Reserve Component employers.
The primary focus of ESGR is to work to develop a dialogue among employers, ESGR Committees, and local National Guard and Reserve unit commanders and service members. Each year they inform and educate hundreds of thousands of Reserve Component members and their employers about their rights and responsibilities, best practices, and relationship building.
Region VII Deputy Regional Administrator Art Freeman accepted the awards on behalf of the entire regional staff for the support they provide Reservists.
“When duty calls there are plenty of things Reservists have to consider and organize before they depart. We and by ‘we’ I mean all the Region VII employees--try to make their transition during deployment, but also back to the job after service, as seamless as possible,” Freeman said. “The families are checked up on in their loved ones’ absences, and when possible administrative details are taken care of because it’s the right thing to do.”
The “Above and Beyond Award” recognizes employers at the state and local level who have gone above and beyond the legal requirements for granting leave and providing support for military duty by their employees. The “Patriot Award” recognizes individuals or organizations that employ Reservists for the support they provide to them related to their service.
There are 10 current (and one recently-retired) Reservists and Guardsmen representing the Army Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Missouri Air National Guard, Navy Reserve, and Coast Guard Reserve assigned to FEMA Region VII. Most have mobilized at least once in recent years in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, Urgent Response (Haiti earthquake), and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response; these Reservists are assigned to units in Ala., Calif., Ill., La., Neb., and Mo.
Locally, FEMA Region VII’s leadership at all levels has consistently supported the duty requirements of its Reservists and Guardsmen who often balance military duty with deployment responsibilities at FEMA. Some examples include:
- Regional human resources staff worked with a Reservist deployed to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 to fix a leave issue affecting the continuation of the member’s health benefits while deployed;
- Notified a deployed Reservist that FEMA would cover the employee’s portion of health insurance premium payments to FEHB while mobilized; and
- Allowed use of a flexible work schedule so a Guardsman could support his unit’s night flying operations on several occasions.
The Region VII Reservists include: Maj. Brian Bowman, Missouri Air National Guard; Master Sgt. Richard Bullock, Air Force Reserve; Lt. Col. Andrew Chancellor, Air Force Reserve; Lt. Col. Tom Hall, Army Reserve; Lt. Col. Constance Johnson-Cage, Air Force Reserve; Master Sgt. Mark Crocker, Army Reserve; Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Morgan, Coast Guard Reserve; Capt. (Ret) Steve Ohms, Coast Guard Reserve; Lt. William Packard, Naval Reserve; Capt. David L. Teska and Coast Guard Reserve; and Tech. Sgt. Adrian Walker, Air Force Reserve.