Pentagon recognizes SRP for programs supporting Guard and reserves

Salt River Project executive Michael O’Connor holds the Employer Support Freedom Award the Pentagon presented to recognize the utility’s programs to support guardsmen and reservists. (Photo by Isaac Windes/Cronkite News)

SRP Senior Project Manager Adam Douglas also serves as a captain in the Army National Guard in Arizona, a balancing act he says is possible because of support from his employer. (Photo by Isaac Windes/Cronkite News)

Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan speaks at the Pentagon ceremony, where Salt River Project was one of 14 U.S. employers honored for support of service members. (Photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith/Defense Department)

WASHINGTON – When Adam Douglas is not senior project manager in the Salt River Project’s Enterprise Applications Group, he is Capt. Adam Douglas of Arizona’s Army National Guard – a juggling act made possible through the SRP’s service member support programs.

Those programs spurred Douglas to nominate the Tempe-based utility for the Defense Department’s Employer Support Freedom Award, which it received Friday at a Pentagon ceremony along with 14 other companies and employers from across the country.

SRP was recognized for a generous leave program that gives guardsmen and reservists up to two years of leave to fulfill their military commitments, which is how Douglas is able to balance his two roles.

SRP Senior Director of Corporate Operations Carrie Young, an Air Force veteran, said that in addition to supporting soldiers in its employ, the utility was also recognized for a hiring and recruitment process that aims to pair military skills with civilian jobs.

“One thing that we do that we have received accolades for, and that other companies are trying to implement something similar, is a jobs website that transfers their military skills to civilian skills,” Young said of vets looking for employment with SRP.

“We also are one of the only companies to provide two full years of benefits and pay,” she said.

Editor’s note:

An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of an SRP officer. Michael O’Connor is SRP’s associate general manager and chief legal executive. The story here has been corrected, but clients who used a previous version are asked to run the correction that can be found here.

Young said the programs are an outgrowth of seven years of work by a veterans’ group she sponsored at SRP.

“SRP vets’ employee interest group has been around for seven years,” she said. “They have been working hard to promote the understanding of military service within the company.”

At Friday morning’s ceremony, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan praised the award winners, which ranged from household names like Johnson & Johnson and Comcast to local employers like Mesa Natural Gas Solutions in Wyoming and Howard County Fire and Rescue in Maryland.

The master of ceremonies, Washington television anchor Jonathan Elias, rattled off the companies’ most notable services when presenting their awards.

“Salt River Project partnered with ESGR (Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve) to establish a military and civilian mapping tool to recruit Guard and reserve members into their workforce,” Elias said.

ESGR is a Defense Department program started in 1972 to “promote cooperation and understanding between service members and their civilian employers and to assist in the resolution of conflicts arising from an employee’s military commitment.”

SRP Associate General Manager Michael O’Connor accepted the award on behalf of the company. But Young said awards are not the reason the company provides the services it does.

“When you think about the sacrifices and the bravery these men and women make, what we do is just a small thing,” Young said. “We don’t do this for the awards, we do this because we know that it’s what is right.”

And despite the recognition happening now, Young said they are far from done.

“We are just on the surface,” she said. “We are working hard with our human resources group, and have a lot of ideas coming to make sure these servicemen are taken care of.”

Douglas commended the employer in comments displayed at the awards ceremony.

“Salt River Project not only provides financial support when I’m participating in weekend drills, annual training and extended training courses,” he said. “But they also provide stability and security in knowing my job is protected while I serve my country.”