The transition from active military duty to civilian life doesn’t come without its challenges.
Sergeant First Class (SFC) Chris Stowe served on Active Duty for nearly 13 years. In November of 2017, he transitioned from Active Duty to part-time service with the Michigan Army National Guard, joining the 3/126th Infantry Battalion unit based in Wyoming, MI.
Imagine having to essentially start over, having to adjust to civilian life, having to find a new community, a new home, and ultimately, a new career. Now, imagine having to find an employer and a full-time job that would willingly work around the schedule of your other part-time job – serving and protecting your country.
Fortunately, Stowe found a place where he could do both – use the skillset he learned in the military to pursue a meaningful civilian career and continue to help serve and protect his country.
That place was HexArmor.
"As a leader in safety, HexArmor provides me a continued sense of meaning and purpose in my new profession. Knowing that my work helps individuals return home safely makes it easy to love my job.”
The part-time service with the Michigan Army National Guard requires Stowe to take periodic absences from civilian employment at HexArmor to fulfill ongoing training requirements with the Guard.
Although HexArmor has employed several veterans in the past, Stowe is the first active Michigan Army National Guardsman to join the company. It was somewhat uncharted territory for HexArmor, but Senior Human Resource Generalist, Laurel Ackerman, was up to the task.
“Despite the new territory we headed into from an HR perspective, Laurel never wavered in support to me. She was always involved in the necessary coordination according to my National Guard training schedule and to laws and responsibilities set by USERRA (Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act) for employers and employees,” Stowe explained.
But offering full support was never a question for Ackerman. “It is a privilege to support someone who is willing to commit his life to keeping me, HexArmor’s employees, and our nation both free and safe. The extra effort required on our part is nothing compared to the dedication of service members.”
From Stowe’s perspective, the HexArmor team provided him the opportunity to show just how valuable the knowledge gained, skills developed, and experiences he had in his military career can give back to the civilian organization; for which he’s grateful.
“Statistics show that an unfortunate majority of soldiers that leave active duty seeking to enter the civilian workforce and/or currently serve in the reserve component have a hard time finding and keeping employment.”
“The amazing group of people here at HexArmor and high level of support that I have experienced from my supervisors are a testament to the values of the company and just how strong the safety culture is here,” Stowe added.
Thomas Heger, inside sales manager at HexArmor (and Stowe’s supervisor), considers it a winning situation for HexArmor. “We’re lucky to have Chris come to our organization with a fantastic skillset and work ethic. We are proud to support Chris as he continues to serve our country, which he has done admirably for many years while building his civilian career.”
During his transition to civilian employee at HexArmor, Stowe was appreciative of Thom’s leadership in helping him develop his skills and getting him up to speed. “Despite periodic absences from the office for National Guard training, Thom has continued to provide support for my service, and greatly aided in my development and appropriate application of my skills in my new career at HexArmor.”
Stowe was so impressed with the support from his supervisors, Ackerman and Heger, that he nominated them for the Patriot Award, an award presented by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), a Department of Defense program. This program exists to enhance employer support for military service in the National Guard and Reserve. They help service members work together with their employers to ensure success, as they often need additional accommodations for time off to serve their country.
The Patriot Award is given to recognize individual supervisors within a company who have made exemplary efforts to support citizen warriors through a wide-range of measures including flexible schedules for training and deployment, caring for families, and granting leaves of absence if needed.
Ackerman and Heger were both surprised and honored to be presented with the Patriot Award.
“When I offered Chris the position, he shared that he needed to disclose that he serves with the National Guard before accepting the position. My first reaction was, ‘Okay. That’s not a problem. We can work through that. We will figure it out,’” said Ackerman.
When Chris started a few weeks later, Ackerman already had a plan in place for how they would handle his leaves. “As we’ve managed Chris’ required training and his absences at HexArmor, that has always been my reaction. We will figure it out. So, when I heard about the nomination, my initial reaction was ‘I haven’t done anything special. I’m just doing my job.’”
“In a way, I think the nomination says more about HexArmor, our people, and our culture than about me. HexArmor has leaders who value taking care of their employees. This is HexArmor at its best.”