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AEDC employee serving in Tennessee National Guard recognizes supervisor with special award

From left, Terry Rayfield accepts a plaque Oct. 5, 2021, at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn., from Andy Grissom, who nominated Rayfield for the Extraordinary Employer Support Award through the Employer Support of Guard and Reserve, or ESGR, program. ESGR is a Department of Defense program established in 1972 to promote cooperation and understanding between Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers. (U.S. Air Force photos by Deidre Moon)

From left, Terry Rayfield accepts a plaque Oct. 5, 2021, at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn., from Andy Grissom, who nominated Rayfield for the Extraordinary Employer Support Award through the Employer Support of Guard and Reserve, or ESGR, program. ESGR is a Department of Defense program established in 1972 to promote cooperation and understanding between Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers. (U.S. Air Force photos by Deidre Moon)

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- While most employees strive to have a good working relationship with their boss, Andy Grissom, an electrical engineer for the Arnold Engineering Development Complex Test Operations and Sustainment contractor at Arnold Air Force Base, thinks very highly of his supervisor, Terry Rayfield.

One reason for this being that not only is Rayfield supportive when Grissom is on the job but also when he’s called to serve his nation in uniform.

For the last year and a half, Grissom has heeded the call as a member of the Tennessee National Guard to serve on active duty, responding to natural disasters and providing assistance to COVID-19 testing sites during the ongoing pandemic.

In 2020, Grissom nominated Rayfield, the Instrumentation, Data and Controls supervisor for the TOS contractor Flight Test Branch, to receive the Extraordinary Employer Support Award through the Employer Support of Guard and Reserve, or ESGR, program. ESGR is a Department of Defense program established in 1972 to promote cooperation and understanding between Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers.

Though it has been in the works for the better part of a year, Grissom was finally able to present Rayfield with the award this spring.

“I first volunteered to be activated with the National Guard from March 9-23, 2020, to help with the tornado clean up in Cookeville,” Grissom said. “I was able to give him [Rayfield] a few days’ notice, and the whole time I was gone he never gave me any grief.

“Then on May 11, 2020, I again started on active duty orders with the Guard, acting as the human resources rep for about 120 military policemen, who were activated to help with traffic control and to be administrative helpers while the National Guard ran COVID-19 testing sites. When I got the chance initially to go on orders, I thought I would only be gone for two weeks. I let him know what date I thought I would return to work at Arnold, but then my orders were extended.”

Grissom’s new set of orders took him to Smyrna to act as assistant operations officer for a COVID-19 task force and extended his orders to June 25, 2020. However, Grissom’s orders continued to get extended, and he just recently returned to the base full-time as of September of this year.

“With each extension, I’d call Terry and let him know, and he would just say, ‘Okay, we’ll be here. We want and need you here, but don’t worry about your stuff here because we’ll get your work covered. Just let me know when you’re coming back and be safe,’” Grissom recalled. “He was never hateful, never gave me grief about my service and never made me feel guilty for being gone. He even had to perform some of my duties himself in order to meet our stakeholders’ expectations.”

Grissom added what really makes him most grateful for Rayfield’s attitude, is that not all of his fellow guardsmen’s employers took the order extensions as well.

“Some of their employers made it very clear they were irritated with the unplanned and continually prolonging absences,” he said. “Even though National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are protected from being fired due to our service under the USERRA [Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act] law, irritated supervisors can turn a workplace hostile. That thankfully is not the case with Terry, and in fact it’s the opposite. I always feel really welcomed coming back, and I’m glad to be here.”