Honorees Provide Superb Reserve-component Support

WASHINGTON, Sept. 19, 2011 — When Army Maj. Ker­ry Stud­er deployed with his Army Reserve unit, his boss and cowork­ers pledged to sup­port him and care for his fam­i­ly in his absence. But the staff also had a big sur­prise for him: it adopt­ed Studer’s entire unit.

“They real­ly went way above what I antic­i­pat­ed �- pro­vid­ing for my entire unit was unbe­liev­able,” said Stud­er, who nom­i­nat­ed his employ­er, Prin­ci­pal Finan­cial Group, for the Sec­re­tary of Defense Employ­er Sup­port Free­dom Award.

The com­pa­ny is slat­ed as one of 15 to be pre­sent­ed the pres­ti­gious award dur­ing a Sept. 22 cer­e­mo­ny here.

Studer’s com­pa­ny pro­vid­ed all unit mem­bers with numer­ous care pack­ages and prac­ti­cal items, too — 300 sets of phys­i­cal train­ing uni­forms and 600 T-shirts.

Prin­ci­pal is a retire­ment and glob­al asset man­age­ment com­pa­ny, head­quar­tered in Des Moines, Iowa. It recruits mil­i­tary mem­bers and has a cor­po­rate-wide state­ment of sup­port pro­gram for ser­vice mem­bers.

Stud­er said he’s grate­ful for all the sup­port his com­pa­ny gave him, his unit and his fam­i­ly.

“[They] essen­tial­ly became addi­tion­al par­ent fig­ures to my kids, attend­ing [their] games, arrang­ing child care,” he said. “Their kind actions real­ly gave me peace of mind dur­ing my deploy­ment, know­ing my fam­i­ly was being tak­en care of.”

This arti­cle is the last in a series of three — each one pro­fil­ing five of the 15 Sec­re­tary of Defense Employ­er Sup­port Free­dom Award-win­ning com­pa­nies and orga­ni­za­tions for 2011, and how they excel as sup­port­ers of their Guard and reserve employ­ees.

Along with Prin­ci­pal Finan­cial Group, the oth­er com­pa­nies and orga­ni­za­tions include:

St. John’s Luther­an Church

South Dako­ta Army Nation­al Guard Chap­lain (Lt. Col.) David Gun­der­son, who’s also the senior pas­tor at St. John’s Luther­an Church in Yank­ton, said he nom­i­nat­ed his church for the Free­dom Award because of the “gen­er­ous sup­port” received when he was deployed to Afghanistan.

“Many church­es send care pack­ages, but St. John’s Luther­an Church wrapped me up and sent me as the care pack­age,” Gun­der­son said.

St. John’s sup­port­ed its pas­tor, even though church­es are report­ed­ly exempt from the fed­er­al law that pro­tects ser­vice mem­bers’ jobs. Gun­der­son offered to resign before deploy­ing, but St. John’s refused, and instead offered to con­tin­ue his pay and ben­e­fits, he said.

When Gun­der­son declined the pay, St. John’s used it to sup­port his mil­i­tary mis­sion in Afghanistan by send­ing dozens of hym­nals to the mil­i­tary chapel.

St. John’s also sent so many care pack­ages to Gun­der­son that he gave some to oth­er ser­vice mem­bers and sent still more to troops in remote areas. He said he also was able to give cloth­ing to Afghan chil­dren.

Back in Yank­ton, St. John’s estab­lished a place for fam­i­ly grief coun­sel­ing when a local deployed unit expe­ri­enced a series of loss­es.

The con­gre­ga­tion sup­port­ed Gunderson’s wife, he said, by mow­ing the lawn, repair­ing the heat­ing sys­tem and bring­ing over food.

Because of the congregation’s sup­port for “Pas­tor Dave,” Gun­der­son said he was able to focus on his mis­sion in Kab­ul, know­ing his fam­i­ly was well tak­en care of at home.

State Employ­ees’ Cred­it Union

When Jamie Appleq­ui­st, an employ­ee of State Employ­ees’ Cred­it Union, was deployed with the Air Force Reserve, she didn’t know that feel­ing “priv­i­leged” would become part of her life.

Appleq­ui­st, an Air Force mas­ter sergeant, nom­i­nat­ed the cred­it union for the Free­dom Award because of its gen­er­ous sup­port for her and her fel­low Guard and reserve mem­bers.

“I’ve had the dis­tinct hon­or and priv­i­lege to be part of these two orga­ni­za­tions, [and] while appear­ing to be very dif­fer­ent, in real­i­ty, [they] have sim­i­lar mis­sions of servi­tude, defined by integri­ty, pro­fes­sion­al excel­lence and a spir­it of ser­vice before self,” Appleq­ui­st said of her civil­ian employ­er and the Air Force.

The cred­it union’s sup­port extends from small ges­tures to big achieve­ments, she said, includ­ing ensur­ing all North Car­oli­na Guard and Reserve troops have access to no-sur­charge ATMs.

And, the staff filled and shipped some 5,000 gift box­es to deployed troops.

Mean­while, employ­ees reg­u­lar­ly help with one-on-one ges­tures of sup­port, Appleq­ui­st said. For exam­ple, one branch man­ag­er, act­ing on the cred­it union’s “Peo­ple Help­ing Peo­ple” phi­los­o­phy, donat­ed time to help care for chil­dren of a deployed sin­gle moth­er.

The cred­it union also shows its wealth of sup­port­ing deployed ser­vice mem­bers in oth­er cre­ative ways.

Its staff con­duct­ed its largest nation­al “State­ment of Sup­port for the Guard and Reserve” sign­ing at the annu­al man­agers’ meet­ing.

The “Peo­ple Help­ing Peo­ple” phi­los­o­phy also led to a part­ner­ship with the North Car­oli­na Nation­al Guard Asso­ci­a­tion Edu­ca­tion­al Foun­da­tion, to sup­port the troops and their fam­i­lies.

Through the part­ner­ship, zero-per­cent con­struc­tion financ­ing was offered for tran­si­tion­al hous­ing to shel­ter home­less vet­er­ans.

Town of Gilbert

Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Leo Hess nom­i­nat­ed his town and its fire depart­ment for the Free­dom Award when sup­port­ers cared for his fam­i­ly dur­ing his mul­ti­ple deploy­ments.

“I want­ed to rec­og­nize the Town of Gilbert Fire Depart­ment for the con­stant sup­port giv­en to my fam­i­ly and me while I ful­filled my mil­i­tary oblig­a­tion,” Hess said.

The town gov­ern­ment, in Mari­co­pa Coun­ty, Ariz., pro­vides ser­vice mem­bers with care pack­ages and news from home, con­ducts annu­al events to hon­or vet­er­ans and main­tains a spouse sup­port group for fam­i­lies of deployed employ­ees.

The town has a his­to­ry of mil­i­tary sup­port ini­tia­tives, and it is part­nered with the Employ­er Part­ner­ship of the Armed Forces to recruit ser­vice mem­bers.

Hess wasn’t the only one who want­ed to nom­i­nate the town for the Free­dom Award. So, sev­er­al oth­ers gave him some input.

In one case, a deployed ser­vice mem­ber had a water pipe break back at home and the fire depart­ment respond­ed quick­ly to fix it, free.

“If it’s fix­ing a bro­ken water pipe or offer­ing to help with a bro­ken wash­er, they’re here for me,” a spouse of anoth­er ser­vice mem­ber said. “I receive phone calls just check­ing in to see if I need any­thing.”

Hess summed up the town’s sup­port of its troops.

“When I noti­fied the fire depart­ment I was prepar­ing to deploy for the third time,” he said, “their first words were, ‘How can we help your fam­i­ly while you are away?’ ”

Wells Far­go & Co.

Army Capt. Rudy Mag­a­l­lanes’ nom­i­na­tion of Wells Far­go & Co. for the Free­dom Award was select­ed from sev­en oth­er sub­mis­sions by employ­ee Guard and Reserve ser­vice mem­bers.

“While I was mobi­lized dur­ing Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom, Wells Far­go main­tained per­son­al con­tact with me through­out my deploy­ment, includ­ing per­son­al let­ters and emails from my super­vi­sors,” said Mag­a­l­lanes, a Cal­i­for­nia Army Nation­al Guards­man.

“Upon my return to work, Wells Far­go wel­comed me back as though I had nev­er left,” he added.

Wells Far­go is a nation­wide, finan­cial ser­vices com­pa­ny. It sup­ports its Guard and reserve employ­ees with ser­vices and com­pen­sa­tion poli­cies that “exceed legal require­ments.”

The company’s 24/7 Employ­ee Assis­tance Con­sult­ing Pro­gram offers post-trau­mat­ic stress dis­or­der coun­sel­ing. It has a Vet­er­ans’ Team Mem­ber Net­work with more than 900 employ­ees to edu­cate staff on the val­ue of vet­er­ans, and pro­mote vet­er­an aware­ness, Mag­a­l­lanes report­ed.

The net­work joins with oth­er Wells Far­go groups to con­duct care pack­age dri­ves, and orga­nize vol­un­teer activ­i­ties in mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ties and mil­i­tary send-offs and wel­come-home events, he said.

In addi­tion, the company’s human resources staff pro­vides career coun­sel­ing ser­vices to vet­er­ans and dis­abled employ­ees at its annu­al mem­ber out­reach pro­gram.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)