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December 8, 2004

DoD Lauds Disabled Employees, Strives to Hire More

From: - Dec 8, 2004

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
December 08, 2004

BETHESDA, Md. - With the theme, "You're Hired! Success Knows No Limitations!" the Defense Department presented awards to 17 outstanding employees with disabilities during the 24th DoD Disability Awards ceremony here Dec. 7.

The honored group included a paraplegic, two quadriplegics, two blind people, a partially paralyzed man and two deaf people.

With David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, acting as host, DoD conducted the awards ceremony and its 17th Annual Disability Forum in conjunction with the Labor Department's National Symposium on Perspectives on Employment of Individuals with Disabilities.

The three-day symposium, which ends Dec. 10, is the only annual national training conference that focuses exclusively on federal employment of individuals with disabilities, Chu noted. He thanked Paul Meyer, who heads the strategic planning and budget division in the Labor Department's Office of Disability Employment Policy, for his leadership in organizing the symposium for 23 years and for allowing DoD to conduct its awards ceremony and forum during the conclave each year. Meyer is retiring after 38 years of government service.

Chu noted that Meyer started the Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities, which DoD now co-sponsors with the Labor Department. "It began with a single student Mr. Meyer hired in 1975 when he was an employee of the Department of the Navy," said Chu. "It's now a nationwide, governmentwide program that is beginning to make inroads in the private sector."

The Office of the Secretary of Defense funds at least 200 summer jobs through that recruitment program, Chu noted. He added that last summer, 248 students were hired at DoD activities nationwide.

"We have found that this program is an excellent pipeline to careers for people with disabilities in our civilian work force," he said. "We now employ more than 5,000 individuals with the severe disabilities targeted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for emphasis in affirmative action programs. That is 1 percent of our civilian work force (5,697 of 595,951 employees as of September 2004). While that percentage is higher than in many other agencies, we know we can do better."

Chu pointed out that the secretary of defense wants to increase DoD's employment of people with severe disabilities to 2 percent of the department's civilian work force. He said that this year's theme meshes with that goal. The awareness month, established in 1988, is held every October.

"We must make all Americans -- including individuals with disabilities -- freedom fighters in the global war against terror," Chu said. "This war will be fought in many ways and many places -- perhaps more often in our homeland and at our desks than on battlefields around the world. As we fight this crucial battle, we want individuals with disabilities to be full-fledged members of our defense team."

He said the forum's keynote speaker, Air Force Lt. Col. Andrew Lourake, is an example of how that can work. Lourake is director of the 89th Airlift Wing Commander's Action Group at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

A senior pilot with more than 3,900 flying hours, Lourake underwent an above- the-knee amputation in June 2002. He was medically cleared to return to flying status this summer, and had his first-flight ceremony in October. Lourake, whose leg was injured in a motocross bike accident, has a computerized artificial leg that can analyze movement at the rate of 50 messages per second and is able to adjust to changes in terrain.

After Lourake's remarks, Chu joined in presenting the 17 employees with disabilities their awards. "I hope these men and women will inspire managers and supervisors throughout the Department of Defense to take another look at the potential of those who may be classified as disabled and investigate how they can be integrated into our work force," he said. "We know from experience that persons with disabilities are often exceptional employees."

The awardees were:

- Joseph P. Aukward, budget analyst, Washington (D.C.) Navy Yard.
- Nagwa in Aziz, human resources specialist, Department of Defense Education Activity, Arlington, Va.
- Brian Colin Brown, computer scientist, National Security Agency, Fort Meade, Md.
- Tony Bufford, computer assistant, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.
- Kimberly A. Burks, clerk, Defense Contract Management Agency, Fort Worth, Texas.
- Ying Bei Chen, program support assistant, Office of the Inspector General, Arlington, Va.
- Gail V. Cherochak, document editor, National Geospatial- Intelligence Agency, Reston, Va.
- Jeffery L. Chess, senior auditor, Defense Contract Audit Agency, Santa Ana, Calif.
- Floyd E. Crawford III, supply technician, Defense Logistics Agency, Battle Creek, Mich.
- Bradley W. Flagler, transportation officer, Defense Commissary Agency, Germersheim, Germany.
- Gloria Martin, legal assistant, Fort Rucker, Ala.
- Michele M. Perry, program support assistant, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Fort Belvoir, Va.
- Mark A. Richards, information technology specialist, Defense Finance and Accounting Service, Pensacola, Fla.
-James R. Roland Jr., human resources specialist, Office of the Secretary of Defense Washington Headquarters Services, Arlington, Va.
- Freddie K. Shelden, store associate, Army and Air Force Exchange Service, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
- Bernard F. Wathen III, administrative support technician, District of Columbia Air National Guard, Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
- Robert A. Zuber, division technical officer, Defense Intelligence Agency, Washington, D.C.

Chu also presented awards to four DoD components for outstanding accomplishments in their affirmative-action programs for people with disabilities. The awards are brass cups that travel annually from one winner to the next, including the best military department, best mid-size component and best small component.

The Best Military Department award was presented jointly to the Army and Air Force. The Best Mid-Size Component Award was garnered by the Defense Logistics Agency. The Best Small Component award went to Washington Headquarters Services/Office of the Secretary of Defense.

©2004 Military Advantage