There’s a lot of red, white and blue for the 4th of July. Attention to our troops and the cause of freedom might be hearty applause when service men and women are recognized on an airplane or public address speaker.
At UPS, it goes a little deeper. I was surprised to learn that nearly 6,000 UPS employees have been called to active duty and returned to the workplace since the fall of 2001. UPS is one of the nation’s largest employers of military reservists.
Some came to the workplace with training born of enlistment or first careers as convoy drivers, officers, logisticians or pilots. Others have built skills to enhance the work of their “day jobs” through leadership and strategy from military assignments.
In July, small ceremonies or quiet recognition will take place to present Returning American Heroes plaques to those back from a first deployment over the previous year.
Our lists show that every service branch and part of the country is represented. The military roster includes UPS preloaders, drivers, pilots, mechanics, sales representatives, engineers, operations managers and systems analysts.
I talked to a few to find out about the return to the workplace or the nature of their military assignments.
Tom Rychlik recently returned to his job as a UPS Freight driver in Memphis after 14 months as a sergeant with the Tennessee National Guard in Iraq. He sees similarities for success on the job at UPS and in the military. He talks of a drive to be committed and the character and integrity that shows respect for equipment and procedures.
When David Underwood isn’t coordinating sales activity for several large UPS customers, he’s with the 39th rescue squadron at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida. He was deployed to Africa in 2009 as a HC-130 pilot for aerial refueling of search and rescue helicopters.
For many reservists, duty assignments are not full deployment. Mark Leavitt, assistant chief pilot and captain of a UPS Airbus A-300, periodically shifts to U.S. Transportation Command to direct global military aircraft positioning. In fact, some 10 percent of UPS pilots serve in National Guard or reserve units around the world.
When employees are deployed, UPS safeguards the economic welfare for them and their families. Differential pay addresses any shortfall in income between UPS and military pay for up to 12 months. Both life insurance and extended health care coverage for the employees’ dependents continue during this period.
The employment rules are pretty clear to grant leaves, continue retirement credit accrual and provide re-employment privileges for those called up.
Support takes other intangible forms. Co-workers make house repairs, coach little league, host holiday parties and are often a comforting community for families while employees are away on active duty.
It’s a little different for small business owners who plan for deployment. Gary Gaudio is the owner of a Champaign, Ill. location of The UPS Store. As a captain in the Army Reserves, he spent 2007 in Iraq. This September, orders direct him to Afghanistan. What’s critical for him is a good business plan and reliable partners from associates and family.