Veterans Day is a time of reflection for the many who fought to protect the country. A time to remember the forgotten veterans.
Especially hard hit were Vietnam War veterans, including Michael Butler, host of the “Gone Fission Nuclear Report Podcast” covering EM topics, who described the lack of homecoming and accolades returning from the war in a Veterans Day podcast on Nov. 7.
The transition to civilian life can be full of challenges. But at EM, there are many opportunities for veterans to do meaningful and purposeful work in their new life, according to the podcast’s three special guests from EM. Click here to see EM Update’s salute to EM veterans around the complex.
Veterans make up about a quarter of EM’s federal workforce, and nearly 12% of its contractor workforce, according to the latest figures available.
Dameone Ferguson, EM’s Diversity Program manager, described EM as a great fit, and that military men and women have also become brand ambassadors for the cleanup program.
“No greater place to serve and be of service than the EM organization,” he said. “It allows for us to build community. They [Veterans] already understand the dynamics of community by working to accomplish mutual goals or missions together.”
EM is a safe space to share commonalities and differences, Ferguson said.
“Community is something you’ll continue to hear from me because it is so essential in how we deal with our working environments. Community is the way we allow individuals where they are in their journeys, in terms of equity, diversity and inclusion, to always have a place to continue to advance,” he said.
The other two EM employees who were guests on the episode are veterans: Junita Turner, director of EM’s Office of Workforce Management, and Lee Tucker, an EM Public Affairs officer. Although their paths of service contrast, they shared how lessons learned in military apply to their civilian jobs and bring a sense of belonging and purpose to their work.
Turner, a retired Navy veteran of 22 years, said she started out as a Navy deck seaman in Connecticut and rose up the ranks to Navy yeoman and eventually direct commission officer. She interacted and learned from Pentagon officials and observed how leaders take charge and make decisions.
Turner was determined to pursue leadership roles. She worked on her master’s degree at night while on active duty during the day. Her leadership training helped her take ownership of decisions and stand in her own truth as an EM leader.
Her work ethics propelled her career forward.
“I started in deck — and the deck was all females. In the 1990s, most of the captains were men. They were all welcoming and most of them wrote my recommendations,” she said. “If you were a hard worker, they were going to stand behind you. It didn’t matter what race you were, what color you were. They were going to stand behind you because of your work ethics.”
Integrity is built into veterans, Turner emphasized. Coming into EM, she saw those same shared values.
Tucker, an Air Force veteran of 16 years, agreed.
“We’re taught a wide range of skills — in addition to our primary jobs — that give us a very full background,” Tucker said. “I think that combined with the integrity and the discipline, a wide range of skills really sets up an individual for success.”
Tucker wanted a career in television but was dissatisfied with the training and schooling at the university level. An article about the Defense Information School and how they trained broadcasting professionals sparked his curiosity.
“I wouldn’t be here today without the training and skillsets provided by my military service,” he said.
Ferguson also learned military lessons while developing employee resource group communities and a framework for the U.S. Coast Guard.
“It allowed for the Coast Guard to utilize its employees as a resource, to not only attract the next generation of talent but to retain that talent through mentorship, through job assignments, through shadowing assignments, and details, and ultimately it allowed for individuals to continue their career progression all the way through the executive ranks,” he said.
He added: “You have to create a supportive unit and an environment that allows individuals to be able to tap and plug into those opportunities.”
The podcast guests said EM is looking to hire veterans for technical and business administration roles.
“Come on over to EM,” Turner said. “We would love to have you.”
Click here to see EM Update’s salute to other EM veterans around the complex.
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