FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- The U.S. Army Special Operations Command Equal Employment Opportunity office, in partnership with the U.S. Army Forces Command and Installation Management Equal Employment Opportunity office, celebrated National Disability Employment Awareness Month, October 24, 2018.
The event celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities in the Fort Bragg workforce. Al Aycock, deputy to the commanding general, U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, was the keynote speaker.
"Success is often measured in our world with how far you go, but we should look at success from a view point of how far you've come from, there's a huge difference between the two. Both measure success, but having a disability, I can promise you that where I've come from was far more difficult from how far I've gone," Aycock said.
"I moved from where I was to the starting line, through therapy and hard work. Even to this day I speak a little bit differently because I have to work on how I talk, and it colors my life every day. I just try to make the colors more beautiful," Aycock added.
USASOC uses the Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities to give candidates an internship position. This allows qualified individuals to showcase their skills, showing they can perform the essential functions of the position to standard with the end goal being a fulltime position.
"Diversity and inclusion, that's where our strength comes from," said Nicole Williams, EEO specialist, USASOC Disability Program Manager. That's how we get faster, stronger and we get better. If everybody thought and processed things in exactly the same way, how effective would we be in accomplishing the mission?"
Williams went on to explain what a success the WRP has been with some of its employees hired under the program, employees like Bret Muldrow, who was hired as a fulltime multimedia specialist, working in the directorate of communications systems.
"After about a month into my internship, the G6 saw my work and my portfolio. I was interviewed for a permanent position. My excitement level went through the roof because I've been given a chance to showcase my skills," Muldrow said.
Muldrow was an asset to USASOC in two directorates during his internship, but some of his highest praise came from his mother, Mavis Muldrow, who was a guest speaker at the event.
"As a command, your continued support of this program gives you access to a large untapped pool of talent, and will certainly further secure your position as an employer of choice," [Mavis] Muldrow said. "Giving opportunities to the differently-abled, nurtures them professionally and allows them to feel their work and realize their purpose."
Federal agencies have a responsibility to enhance employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, and are required to practice affirmative action to hire and promote individuals with disabilities.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requires federal agencies to achieve a 12 percent representation of individuals with disabilities, and a two percent representation of individuals with targeted/severe disabilities.
USASOC's civilian workforce is comprised of 29.76 percent individuals with disabilities and 1.77 percent individuals with targeted/severe disabilities.
One of the strategies used to help USASOC meet the federal mandate is to partner with other agencies on Fort Bragg to employ some of their WRP candidates. Additionally, as required, USASOC provides reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities to enable them to perform their core duties, allowing USASOC to retain individuals with disabilities in the workforce.
In closing, Williams noted, "Diversity means embracing that each individual is different and recognizing the value in our differences. This is what makes USASOC strong."