Freedom Award Spotlights AT&T’s Commitment to Our Service Men and Women

October 30, 2014 12:21 pm

By Vince McDonough

AT&T Freedom AwardAs a captain in the United States Coast Guard Reserve, Julia Hein knows how important her call-up availability is to our nation. As a senior project manager for AT&T, she knows how hard those departures are for assignment continuity and colleague workload.

To show her appreciation for AT&T’s commitment to the military, Hein nominated the company for a Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the highest recognition the U.S. Government gives to employers for supporting employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve.

In September, Scott Smith, senior vice president-Human Resources, accepted the award at the Pentagon on behalf of AT&T. Several employee veterans joined him for the ceremony.

“I’ve been deployed four times in the past five years, including now,” Hein said. “AT&T has been nothing but supportive throughout. I always feel terrible having to go, many times with little to no notice – and leave my leadership with figuring out how to backfill. There have been many times I’ve been called up for one thing only to get extended for something else. But the leaders don’t complain or hold it against me. They know I’m ordered to support these events.

“The amount of support for veterans around AT&T is phenomenal. Returning and integrating can be difficult. You have to retrain your brain to the new acronyms, processes and projects. But my team members and supervisors have worked with me each time. I just felt the need to thank the company for all its support and patience.”

AT&T’s commitment to the military runs deep. The company hired 7,000 vets the past two years as part of a commitment to hire 10,000 veterans and their families by 2018. It works with many organizations to aid U.S. troops and their loved ones. It provides a national mentoring campaign for service-disabled veteran CEOs to help them improve business operations. And it has built a veterans employee resource group that’s now 7,500 strong.

“AT&T is so proud to support our national heroes and receive the Freedom Award, especially since it reflects the sincerest appreciation of one of our employee veterans,” said Debbie Storey, senior vice president-talent development and chief diversity officer.

“We learned long ago that bringing veterans into our workforce is a win-win. Their diversity in backgrounds and skills aligns with our strategy and values. They bring real-world experiences, extensive knowledge and leadership skills that make a business successful.

“It’s no secret the military sets the bar on leveraging diversity and inclusion to produce desired outcomes, and we benefit by tapping into this incredible talent pool.”

Vince McDonough supports AT&T’s Diversity & Inclusion organization.