JLG Industries this week announced that Dwight Gates, production supervisor, received the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Patriot Award for his support of JLG employee and member of the U.S. Army, Daniel Weist, who was deployed to Afghanistan in December as a sergeant in the 1104th Mobilization Support Battalion of the Army Reserve and an employee of JLG Industries. Weist, who served two tours of duty overseas during his six years as an enlisted soldier in the U.S. Army, nominated his supervisor Gates, who received the 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.

“The Patriot Award is a very distinguished award,” said 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. “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 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.”

“I didn’t think I was doing anything special at the time,” said Gates. “I made schedule changes so that Daniel could go home and get the rest he required to perform his military duties the following day. Leading up to his deployment, there were times he needed to be out to take care of things in preparation for his departure, so I made sure he got any time he needed to do that and be with his family.  And I took the time to talk with him, asking him about things he had going on in his personal and military life, and where he might need some assistance.

“But I was really stunned to receive the award. Now, I’m also honored. It’s very special to me and something I was happy to take home and share with my wife and two daughters, demonstrating to them the good things you can do in life, sometimes without even knowing it.”

Gates is a production supervisor at the Bedford Weber Lane facility with nearly 17 years experience at JLG. He began his career as a welder and was later promoted to group leader before transferring to the Service Plus (formerly Equipment Services) facility in McConnellsburg, Pa., in an assembly/teardown position. There, he was again named group leader before being promoted to supervisor and eventually moving back to the Weber Lane site.

JLG Industries is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of access equipment including JLG aerial work platforms; JLG, SkyTrak and Lull telehandlers; and an array of complementary accessories. JLG is an Oshkosh Corp. company. For more information, visit www.jlg.com.