FORT BELVOIR, Va. –
Three Defense Logistics Agency awardees confirmed the agency’s commitment to employing individuals with disabilities at the Defense Department’s 2020-2021 Workforce Recruitment Program Awards Ceremony July 29.
The awards recognize organizations and individuals who participate in or support WRP, an annual recruitment program that places prescreened college students and recent graduates with disabilities in 14-week internships at federal agencies.
Andrea Perry, from DLA Aviation’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, and Robert Jones, from DLA Troop Support’s Pathways to Career Excellence program both received the 2020-2021 Judith C. Gilliom Outstanding WRP Participant Award, which honors Gilliom’s legacy and advocacy of diversity in the workplace. She served as the DOD Disability Program Manager for 25 years and was one of the founders of the WRP.
Since the DOD program’s inception in 1995, 1,169 participants have been temporarily hired under WRP, but Perry and Jones were part of a group of 168 WRP participants who were permanently hired after completing their initial internship.
Sonya Giddings, who works in DLA Troop Support’s contracting office was honored with the 2021 Outstanding WRP Recruiter Award.
Giddings was one of 41 DLA employees who volunteered, trained and certified as recruiters to interview and qualify hundreds of WRP candidates. The participation rate of DLA recruiters was among the highest of all participating agencies in DOD and the federal government.
Giddings said Jones’s win is proof that her dedicated recruiting efforts paid off.
“Robert is a perfect example of how the program works,” she said. “That is a win on Troop Support’s part, valuing what he brought to the workforce and allowing him to grow and succeed.”
During the ceremony, Defense Human Resources Activity Director William Booth said the decades-long partnership between the Defense Department and the U.S. Department of Labor has helped WRP participants and coordinators identify best practices and overcome obstacles in meeting the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission-established 2% goal of employing individuals with targeted disabilities.
Booth acknowledged the department’s successes but highlighted the need to continue to increase opportunities for civilian and military veterans with disabilities. The pandemic made meeting these goals difficult.
“But we’ve managed to find ways to keep the mission moving forward and our talented employees with disabilities have been at the center and forefront of making that happen,” he said.
DLA Energy Financial Systems Analyst John Slone, a WRP alumni, served as the ceremony’s keynote speaker. He said what drew him to a WRP internship with DLA was flexibility, cooperation, and mutual respect as well as an opportunity for permanent employment.
“My current DLA team and I solve problems by having open communication continuously,” he said. “We utilize the most current technology for our communications which remove barriers that could hinder me from being equally skilled and valued as any of my coworkers.”
He said that while the pandemic has presented challenges, it’s also accelerated use of those technological tools to further collaboration between himself and his colleagues.
“There are value-added benefits for those host organizations of WRP candidates to foster morale, enhance diversity and to meet both the short-term and long-term mission requirements,” he said.
DOD Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity Director Clarence Johnson encouraged award recipients to let the ceremony serve as a reminder that they can be leaders in their chosen career paths.
“We at DOD recognize that your unique talents and abilities are bound to total force mission effectiveness,” he said.
Employees can view video of the ceremony on DVIDS.