Deployment to foreign soils is nothing new to Daniel Weist. Quite the contrary. During his six years as an enlisted soldier in the U.S. Army, Weist completed two tours of duty overseas, first in Iraq as part of Operation Freedom and later in South Korea. However, when he left for Afghanistan in December, he deployed not as a member of the U.S. Army, but as a sergeant in the 1104th Mobilization Support Battalion of the Army Reserve and an employee of JLG Industries Inc., an Oshkosh Corporation company and a global manufacturer of aerial work platforms and telescopic material handlers.
According to Weist’s father, Dwight Weist, who is a production supervisor at JLG’s Bedford facility, “Daniel is lucky enough to work for a company that has gone the extra mile to support him, not only as he prepared for his most recent deployment, but also now, while he is serving in Afghanistan and when he returns, ensuring that the job he left will be waiting for him.”
Even before he deployed, the younger Weist recognized how important that support is to him and his family and took the necessary steps to nominate his supervisor, Dwight Gates, for the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) Patriot Award. In January, Gates received the prestigious award during a presentation at the JLG Mid-Atlantic Reconditioning & Service Center in Bedford, Pa., where both Gates and Weist work.
The Patriot Award recognizes supervisors and bosses for support provided directly to the guardsmen or reservist employees who nominate them. The award reflects the efforts made to support citizen warriors through a wide range of measures, including flexible schedules, time off prior to and after deployment, caring for families, and granting leaves of absence if needed.
Harry Zeznanski, ombudsman with the ESGR, a Department of Defense agency that promotes cooperation and understanding between Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers, presented the Patriot Award to Gates.
“The Patriot Award is a very distinguished award,” explained Zeznanski. “In the past year, I probably distributed more than 5,000 nomination forms to guardsmen and reservists in the Pennsylvania Mountain Area, but I’ve only presented five awards. So it really is significant for someone to take the time to complete the form, because in that service member’s mind, his or her supervisor did something above and beyond what is required. For example, the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act (USERRA) requires a service member to rest eight hours prior to reporting for duty, but it does not require the employer to pay the service member when time off is necessary to meet that requirement. In the case of Daniel Weist, I understand that Dwight Gates made changes to Daniel’s work schedule to accommodate his reserves duty without losing any wages in the process or forcing Daniel to use vacation time, as is often the case.”
According to Zeznanski, this kind of support from a supervisor is critical to the success of the Guard and Reserve program. “But it also says a lot about the company that employs these people. We all know that supervisors can’t always act on their own. Often they need approval from management and a corporate environment that fosters support for our service men and women. I’d far rather be honoring men like Dwight and by extension, companies like JLG, than spending my time mediating disputes between service members and their employers, which unfortunately is where I spend the bulk of my time.”