One important tool for someone serving in the military is their rucksack. For NISC’s Bill Hanks, preparing for military deployment with his reserve unit this month has made it feel like he’s carrying a rucksack full of boulders.

“All of these worries feel like huge boulders that I’m carrying on my back, and it all stacks up,” Hanks said. “But NISC has just come along beside me. It definitely gives you a lot of comfort.”

Hanks and his supervisor, Rock McElwee, have been working the past several months to remove those boulders one by one, ensuring Hanks will have a job at NISC when he returns from deployment and that his family won’t have to worry while he’s gone.

Because of that, Hanks was joined by Bob Schure from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) to present McElwee with the Patriot Award. The ESGR’s Patriot 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.”

Hanks joined NISC in July of 2017. His role as a power production engineer in the military was a natural fit for helping NISC Members navigate outages. He worked with McElwee to ensure he was able to also accomplish his duties with the Air Force reserves. Neither of them expected that he’d be asked to deploy later in the year.

“I’ve had a lot of jobs and done a lot of different things, but I’ve never had this happen before,” McElwee said. “It’s not just me. All I had to do was say ‘yeah that’s good’, or ‘we can do that’, or ‘we’ll figure it out’. I think that’s just the culture here with that kind of flexibility.”

With Hanks being a newer employee, he hadn’t built up a lot of vacation or personal time. McElwee, along with NISC’s People Services department, allowed him to flex his schedule and save his personal time to spend with his family before he deployed.

“That’s so appreciated, because it gives me some time to spend with my family instead of working all the way up to deployment day,” Hanks said. “There’s a lot to do to prepare for a deployment. Putting in all of the plans of action in case something goes wrong with your family back home. You don’t want to worry about that when you’re over there.”

Along with the flexible schedule, Hanks was also able to work with NISC’s People Services department and the benevolence committee to ensure there are financial safeguards in place for his family back home.

“I serve my country out of a sense of duty and responsibility,” Hanks said. “My father did before me and my uncles did before him. The oldest male of the family has been continuing on doing this. To have a company come along side you and say ‘hey, we know that you’re doing this because you love your country, we appreciate that’ and make sure you don’t go into a financial crisis while you’re gone, that’s a massive boulder that was relieved off my back.”

While McElwee worked with Hanks to ease his mind and the minds of his family for the deployment, he insists that it’s not him that should receive the credit.

“It’s more foundational for the company,” McElwee said. “I think this really is company-wide; I certainly wouldn’t take any credit for any of it. It’s another example of our company culture. It’s an extreme circumstance, but this is just what we do.”

In full military uniform for the presentation, Hanks was approached by a group of NISC staff that wanted to help. They ended up taking down his family’s information and insisted on helping with Christmas, since he’s going to be deployed through the holidays.

“NISC has been a great company,” Hanks said. “It’s more like a family than a company. They have my back while I’m here, they have my back when I’m not here, so it’s a great relief.”