When a soldier is deployed, there are many things he or she has to worry about.

A job to come home to should not be one of them.

That’s why the Georgia-Pacific Wauna Mill has supported its staff and their calls of duty throughout the years, for both veterans and active National Guard and reserves members. There are currently four active duty employees on the mill’s staff. Additionally, more than 10 percent of the staff are veterans – totaling more than 120 people –  from the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard.

“It’s part of our culture, part of our nature here to support our veterans,” said Greg Bosch, pulp operations manager.

Bosch was recognized Wednesday with the Patriot Award by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), nominated by Mike Burghardt, energy leader at Wauna Mill and brigade support battalion commander for the National Guard.

“All of that (responsibility) adds up to a heck of a lot of time away from the mill, so I was thinking about how can I show appreciation for what GP has done, what Greg Bosch has done for me? And it just came to me that these folks deserve an award from the ESGR,” said Burghardt, an employee of Georgia-Pacific Wauna Mill for seven years.

“I can tell you that Greg is unequivocally extremely supportive of my service. Between flexible work schedules, granted leaves of absence, time off before and after deployments to be reintegrated with the family and spend time with them prior to departing, he’s done it all and I couldn’t thank you more Greg for how you’ve supported me and my other requirements for being a citizen soldier.”

Awards

Wednesday, which was Patriot Day, the mill also received the Above and Beyond Award for doing more for its service member employees than the basic laws require. Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Mike Kalberg, a volunteer with ESGR, presented the award, explaining what it means.

“It is the personal touch of the boss – the person who actually facilitates a service member’s ability to serve productively and confidently, and the confidence knowing that he or she has a job to return to,” Kalberg said of the Patriot Award.

The Above and Beyond Award, “recognizing truly outstanding employers, ones that make it possible for our service men and women to serve productively and that’s what we’re doing with GP today.”

On a date that brings out a strong sense of patriotism for most – especially those in the service – the employees of Wauna Mill were honored with an American-themed barbecue. Guests included Col. Dean Perez, Camp Rilea’s post commander, state Rep. Brad Witt, Clatskanie Mayor Diane Pohl, State Command Chief Master Sgt. Andy Gauntz, Senior Master Sgt. Gregg Bosin, 116 ACS Master Sgt. Stan Brawley and Dawn Taylor and Nancy Pine with ESGR.

Craig Snitker, the Oregon Employment transition coordinator, the Hero 2 Hired representative, was also a guest.

Important

“For me, we know that supporting our veterans is a very important part of what we do,” said Mill Manager Steve Francoeur, who accepted the Above and Beyond award.

“To be recognized for something that in some ways we take for granted, trying to help folks out, is just pretty special. We didn’t expect to have any sort of special treatment, so it’s pretty cool to be singled out like that and to be recognized for it.”

Francoeur noted during his acceptance speech that Brawny Paper Towels, manufactured at the mill, has raised $650,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project this year; $549,000 last year.

“It’s a real honor to receive this award, but I think that all the support efforts we do really pales in comparison to what those individuals do,” Francoeur said, noting the lists displayed Wednesday of employees with military service. “Take a look and find those names of people you know ... and shake their hand and thank them for what they’ve done for our country.”

Burghardt nominated his employers for their support, including his latest of four deployments, in Iraq in 2010. He was also deployed to Somalia, Bosnia and Kuwait over the last few decades. In his position with the military, he says he has seen the other side of things, when an employer is not supportive of an individual’s commitment to their country.

“Sometimes, I might have to make a call to explain that they do need the time off. I’ve been there. I’ve made those calls,” he said. “GP and the Wauna Mill leadership are just exceptional.”

Everyone helps

The mill employees throughout every department also help when a co-worker is called up. Francoeur said that a plan is in place to backfill other employees into the spots vacated when someone needs leave.

Bosch said that the veterans and military members who work at the mill contribute a special work ethic and other qualities to the staff, that all lead to meeting the safety values of the company.

“What they bring is very important to help our safety culture to be successful,” Bosch said. “The maturity level, the work ethic, understanding how important procedures are, team work, all of those things are extremely important to our successful safety culture here. But the most important thing I see that comes with the folks who have gone through the military is this concept that we call ‘Brother’s Keeper,’ looking out for each other. That’s really important.”

“Getting an award like this doesn’t happen every day,” Bosch said. “And I appreciate Mike nominating me and I’ll remember this for the rest of my life. It’s a pretty big deal.”

  

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