As the number of states impacted by the coronavirus pandemic increased, so did the number of soldiers activated to respond. Mobilizing personnel from the Army Reserve and Army National Guard meant civilian companies would have a deficit in its workforce, a known commitment attached to employers who hire talent from the reserve component. It can also lead to economic hardship for those who take a pay cut to fulfill military obligations — except for employees working in an environment with pro-military employment policies.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), as an example, employs over 1,500 veterans — with several activated as part of the COVID-19 response. In addition to maintaining the jobs of those called to active duty, PwC compensates them with 100% of their pay. Within its ranks, soldiers received notification they would be serving in various capacities, such as:
- Providing epidemiological intelligence
- Deploying medical resources
- Helping stage combat hospitals in communities around the country
Capt. Paul Spranger, a PwC Senior Associate, is a staff officer with the Indiana Army National Guard. At the onset of the COVID-19 response, he said several of his colleagues were called to service in one capacity or another, leading different project teams to adjust responsibilities to accommodate them getting pulled in. At the time, Spranger was preparing epidemiological threat intelligence reports to advise his team on secondary and tertiary effects on disease transmission models.
He heard portions of his unit were being activated, then got the call himself for an operations officer-in-charge role for a patient transport task force.
"We have a number of areas within the state of Indiana that have limited capacity in order to transport patients from one care facility to another and as a consequence, essentially they needed additional help to move some of those patients in the event that the hospital system couldn't facilitate the additional surge in patients," Spranger said. "So, what I'm doing day to day is planning to prepare all of our different elements and all the different districts in the state of Indiana that have this need, and pre-positioning ambulance assets around the state. And then managing their movements and ensuring those areas have the coverage they need."
He says soldiers are "ready to respond" to this sort of event.
"I've always been in a staff officer type role, and so as a consequence this is very similar — one of the essential elements of an operation that really never really changes. It's just a lot of administrative, logistical, lots of planning and things like that, so it's just a matter of putting the right talent — just like the civilian sector — in the right places to do the job that they know how to do," he said.
PwC launched a Veteran's Affinity Network in 2008 to support veterans in the workplace. The group, which is led by Lt. Col. Tim Stoner, has grown to more than 1,000 active members and 20 chapters. He said having such a resource makes transition easier on employees leaving active duty or returning to a civilian job after a combat deployment.
Stoner, a PwC Partner, is the commander of the 55th Medical Detachment in Indianapolis, Indiana. Through his civilian position at PwC he works with clients in cybersecurity, but it is aligned to the healthcare vertical. He sees crossover between his careers in and out of uniform.
"Both of those things have strong synergies with the military. From a cybersecurity perspective, everything we do in the military really revolves from a security perspective from three pillars: information security, operational security, and physical security. So, I think a lot of our military members have that in their DNA just based on service to the country and I think that plays well on my civilian career," Stoner said.
Throughout the COVID-19 response, he had a dual–capacity role with evening calls and weekend duty to prepare the unit he commands for stateside support. He mobilized three teams to three different hot spots to stage Combat Support Hospitals on the east and west coasts. Logistically, he said, this mobilization "has been very easy" because FEMA had the lead on the national response.
Stoner has served in the Army for 32 years across all components, and says this pandemic is unlike anything he has seen.
"It's unique. I've been called up and served many times — been overseas, been mobilized, been deployed. It's usually with something that's maybe known or seen, or is traumatic in result — that's maybe more visible or palpable, if that makes sense," he said. "We (the military) are great at emergency medicine and trauma medicine, and things like that, but this is obviously a different type of threat where it's unlike anything I've done. It's less traumatic and dramatic than maybe some of my combat tours, but this is equally as critical and life-taking, as we all know."
Stoner adds the support from PwC has been "tremendous," at every step from local levels up the chain to the CEO.
"We have a very supportive military lead policy as well as great things that support our folks, from flexible work arrangements, certainly to child care, emergency support and elder care support for families in need. Mental health resources and capabilities. I've never been in a consultancy that has this level of support for their people."
Visit https://www.pwc.com/us/en/careers/why-pwc/military-veterans.html to learn about career opportunities at PwC for military and veterans.