Deb Gargalis, Worksource Oregon’s Eastern Region manager, accepts an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Seven Seals Award from State ESGR Chair Norm Koffman (left) and Vice Chair Dan Hitchcock. (Bill Rautenstrauch photo)
Boise Cascade, Deb Gargalis of the Oregon Employment Department and former Observer Publisher Bob Moody honored at Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves conference for helping soldiers find jobs
PENDLETON — Local community leaders who helped soldiers returning from Iraq find jobs were honored last week during Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves annual planning and awards conference at Wildhorse Resort.
One honoree was Boise Cascade, the Boise, Idaho-based wood products company that employs hundreds of workers at its La Grande sawmill, its particleboard plant in Island City, and its plywood and stud mill plant in Elgin.
Another was Deb Gargalis, manager of the Baker City,
The conference took place May 6-8. At a banquet the night of May 7, Boise Cascade Inland Region Manager Tom Insko accepted the Pro Patria award, ESGR’s highest state honor.
ESGR State Committee Chair Norm Hoffman presented the trophy, praising Insko for taking a lead in an ESGR-led employment initiative that put dozens of soldiers from the Oregon National Guard’s Third Battalion, 116th Cavalry to work after their return from Iraq in 2011.
The battalion, headquartered in La Grande, includes units in towns and cities throughout Eastern Oregon. Hoffman said getting jobs for 3/116th soldiers who served the war-torn country during 2010-11 was a daunting task made easier by Boise Cascade.
“We were struggling with this whole thing, and Tom stepped up, first to hire,” Hoffman said.
ESGR is a Department of Defense organization formed in 1972 to promote understanding and cooperation between National Guard and Reserve members and their employers. ESGR also helps resolve conflicts arising from an employee’s military commitments.
ESGR broadened its focus in January 2011 by rolling out the Employment Initiative Program, a cooperative effort to help transitioning soldiers find jobs in a down economy. Local ESGR leaders were free to create programs in support of the EIP.
The local initiative was organized by ESGR Area Six Chair Jack Johnson.
Johnson, of Cove, worked with a host of partners, including 3/116th commanders, Worksource Oregon, the Oregon Guard’s Joint Transition Assistance Program and area employers to help 3/116th soldiers serving in Iraq get a jump on finding work.
In Iraq, unit leaders were already giving classes in such subjects as interview techniques and resume writing. The ESGR initiative forged a link between the soldiers overseas and prospective employers on the home front. The idea was to get much of the work done before the soldiers returned home.
Worksource Oregon assessed a soldier’s civilian-side skills, pointed soldiers to possible employers and set up online and personal interviews.
The guard’s transition assistance program offered records that helped track the soldier’s employment status. On the unit’s return, the transition program also offered employment counseling and held a job fair in Pendleton.
Boise Cascade was one of several employers who worked within the initiative. Others included Natural Structures in Baker City, and Keystone Trailers and Greybeal Distributors in Pendleton.
Johnson said during the conference that nearly 120 soldiers tracked by the initiative were either employed or attending school.
“Most of those people are stabilized. Most of those who want jobs have them,” he said.
Insko said he wasn’t sure how many soldiers his company hired as a result of the initiative, but he added that a sizable number of National Guard soldiers work in the local plants. He said Boise Cascade is proud of that fact.
“Serving in the military is the highest honor, and we have the tools to help those who do serve. This falls into our mission of building communities,”
Insko said he has found that veterans make good employees.
“We just hired another one recently. They’re skilled and they have great values. It’s really win-win,” he said.
Also during the Tuesday banquet, Gargalis was presented with the ESGR’s Seven Seals award, an honor that recognizes meritorious leadership and initiative and support of men and women who serve in the National Guard and Reserves.
Hoffman said Gargalis worked hard to see that the soldiers in Iraq made key connections with employers on the home front.
“She helped with those live interviews while the boots were still on the ground, so when soldiers came back they got their lives fixed. She had a great heart, and she loves what she does,” Hoffman said.
Gargalis said she was humbled by the award, and added that many people worked to make the employment initiative a success.
“These things don’t happen in a vacuum. It takes a team. It takes a community,” she said.
About 80 ESGR volunteers attended the three-day conference, taking in talks on subjects including the Hero to Hired jobs program, the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program and activities within each of the state areas.
At a banquet for the volunteers, Bob Moody was presented with a Seven Seals award by ESGR State Vice-Chair Dan Hitchcock.
“He’s been a great friend and a great supporter of all the military services,” Hitchcock said.
Accepting his award, Moody said he’s proud to have participated in ESGR.
“I’ve been in this outfit a long time and I have a lot of good memories,” he said.