When you are responsible for the operation of mission-critical voice and data networks in the U.S. Army's hottest military theaters, worrying about your job in civilian life is a dangerous distraction.
U.S. Army Reserve Signal Corps Chief Warrant Officer Thomas Utendorf says that because he works for a company recently honored for its support of veterans, his only concern was the secure network soldiers need to complete their missions.
Utendorf works for Frontier Communications in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Earlier this month, Frontier was named among 2014's Most Valuable Employers (MVE) for Military® by CivilianJobs.com. The winners were selected based on surveys in which employers outlined their recruiting, training and retention plans that best serve military service members and veterans.
During his nine-month deployment, Utendorf heard many National Guard and Reserve members express serious doubt about their civilian job status. "They would complain about employers that didn't really support their active duty. Many were afraid they'd lose responsibilities or their jobs would be altered. Fortunately, my employer took that worry right off the table." Utendorf has no doubt Frontier deserves the MVE award.
As Frontier Communications' video operations director for the 100% fiber-to-the-home FIOS network in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon, Utendorf's team maintains all network and server locations to feed video to Frontier's FIOS customers. It's a critical service that generates significant revenue. Yet when Utendorf told his manager about his overseas deployment, instead of resistance, "He asked what he could do to help." Utendorf would later present his supervisor, David Puente, the Patriot Award from an organization called Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve in recognition of Puente's backing and cooperation.
In Indiana, an impressive 168 of Frontier's 1,643 employees are veterans. The Senior Vice President of Indiana Greg Stephens says when comparing equally qualified candidates the company typically hires the veteran. "Our veterans understand the value of teamwork and they bring directly transferable skills," Stephens said. He believes the training, occupational discipline and loyalty that military service requires fits well with the demands of the communications industry. Nationwide, 11 percent of the Frontier workforce are veterans.
Helping to execute programs that support veterans in each of Frontier's 27 states falls to Gregg Barratt, assistant vice president for veterans affairs. "Many of our senior vice presidents and much of our workforce are veterans. Hiring vets is part of our corporate DNA," Barratt said. While Frontier considers support for veteran and military families a corporate responsibility, Barratt says the company has also learned it's good for business. "A side benefit we never anticipated is that our commitment to veterans sometimes will tip the scales with a customer when they're choosing a communications partner."
Barratt adds that Frontier's 100% U.S.-based workforce includes a number of military spouses. "Thirty percent of work-at-home contact center employees are military spouses. These are not low-wage jobs, and they can move anywhere. This makes Frontier a perfect fit for military spouses who transfer and follow their wife or husband in uniform."
Frontier's Tom Utendorf says his nine-month deployment was rewarding because of the critical nature of the voice and data networks he oversaw. He agrees that customers ultimately benefit from Frontier's support for military service. "The experience I gained managing a team pays off for Frontier because I'm truly battle-ready. I was drinking through the fire hose, and this far exceeded anything I've experienced in civilian life. It prepared me for anything that could happen."