Defense Department Recognizes Dedication to Veterans

Tags: HeroStories

WASHINGTON, Nov. 18, 2008 – No one has to tell Dawn Halfaker the value of hiring veterans, especially those disabled in combat. She is one.

A U.S. Military Academy at West Point graduate and former Army military police officer, Halfaker was serving in Iraq in 2004 when a rocket-propelled grenade struck her convoy. Critically injured, Halfaker was evacuated from combat to recover at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here. Her right arm was amputated.

Two years later, medically retired from the service, she began her job hunt. Nothing seemed to fit, Halfaker said, and she missed the “intense” environment of the military.

“It’s hard to find that kind of camaraderie, teamwork. [In the military], everybody’s all about the mission. When I’d go into the business world, people weren’t,” Halfaker said. “It’s like there is a war going on and people were just huddled up in their offices doing whatever, and that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to continue to contribute and continue my service.”

So Halfaker started her own national security consulting company that now employs nearly 100 people – about 65 veterans – with a gross annual revenue of more than $1 million.

In a ceremony at the Pentagon yesterday, Halfaker joined a group of other small business owners, Defense Department prime contractors and Defense Department acquisition professionals who were recognized by the department for their contributions to the department’s Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Program in fiscal 2007.

In all, 17 contractors, business owners, agencies and civil servants were recognized at the second annual awards ceremony hosted by the Defense Department. The Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Program is a federal program that was established in 1999 to foster career opportunities to disabled servicemembers.

The awards recognized five government employees and one agency that have promoted the program and provided opportunities by using companies employing disabled veterans. They also recognized five Defense Department prime contractors with a proven record of awarding subcontracts to companies owned by service-disabled veterans. And they recognized six small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans that provide excellent services and products to DoD.

The Defense Department awarded $3 billion in fiscal 2008 in prime contracts to companies owned by service-disabled veterans, said Anthony R. Martoccia, director of the Office of Small Business Programs for the Defense Department. About $1.5 million in subcontracts went to such companies, he said, nearly double the total awards from about two years ago.

Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England was on hand to present the awards and said that many veterans who contributed to the nation’s defense first in the military now have gone on to continue doing so as business owners.

“We are very proud of our strong relationship with America’s veterans. We’re also pleased with the success of the service-disabled-veteran-owned small businesses,” England said. “They make a positive impact, and we want to see these businesses continue to do well. It’s good for them. It’s good for us. And it’s good for America.

“We owe it to our veterans,” he continued, “and particularly to our disabled veterans, to give them every opportunity they can to continue to contribute to this great free society.”

Martoccia said the awards are based on how many veterans the company hires and the level of its performance. Companies are nominated by small-business directors throughout the department. A panel reviews each application and makes the final selection, he said.

Martoccia said veterans are ideal candidates as both employees and contractors for DoD.

“Who knows better how to service the department than veterans? They know the department, they know what it needs and they know how to provide excellent service,” Martoccia said. “It’s a very successful program, and we’re very proud of the service that these veterans provided to the country, and we’re here to use their services and products that they can provide to the DoD.”

John and Sue Scott, who own Advantage Engineering and IT Solutions out of Eldersburg, Md., were among the small business owners recognized at the ceremony. They both are veterans, and said they recruit veterans from the engineering field.

“We find that they know our customers well. We like the preparation that they’ve been given throughout their career,” John Scott said. “We wanted to give back. So we started interviewing veterans in the engineering field … as a priority. They’ve done a great job, and that has kept us hiring them.”

Halfaker said she, too, recruits veterans for their dedication to the mission and the perspective and values they acquire in the service.

“What’s important to me is I want somebody who wants to continue to serve,” she said. “When I peel away the layers of a veteran, at the core is somebody who sees something bigger than themselves, who wants to be part of something bigger than themselves and wants to contribute, and is in it for all the right reasons. That’s what I want in my organization.”

Halfaker said it is especially important to hire service-disabled veterans, because their employment is key to their recovery.

The Golden Talon Award recognized acquisition professionals who have promoted the program and provided opportunities for veterans by using companies employing disabled veterans.

Those receiving the Golden Talon Award were:

-- Mark Mailander, administrative contracting officer for the Omaha District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers;

-- Dawn Chartier, small business specialist, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division-Lakehurst, Naval Air Systems Command, Department of the Navy;

-- Nelson Escribano, small business specialist, Air Mobility Command, 6th Air Refueling Wing, Department of the Air Force;

-- Procurement Division and Small Business Center, Defense Contract Management Agency;

-- Chris Pierce, small business specialist, Aviation Supply Chain, Defense Supply Center Richmond, Defense Logistics Agency; and

-- Susan Larimer, small business specialist, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

The Achievement Award recognized service-disabled-veteran-owned small businesses that have excelled in the areas of innovative technologies for the warfighter and their impact on the veteran and service-disabled-veteran community and the business.

Those receiving the Achievement Award were:

-- Retired Army Capt. Dawn Halfaker, Halfaker and Associates LLC, Washington, D.C.;

-- Tony Ortiz, Millennium Systems Services Inc., Huntsville, Ala.;

-- Bryan Hill, Logistics 2020 Inc., Chesterfield, Va.;

-- Harry Looney, New World Solutions, Inc., Chantilly, Va.;

-- John Scott, Advantage Engineering and IT Solutions, Eldersburg, Md.; and

-- Joseph F. DiGangi, Trusant Technologies LLC, Columbia, Md.

The Prime Contractor Subcontracting Award recognized prime contractors who exceeded the 3 percent annual goal for subcontracting opportunities to service-disabled-veteran-owned small business.

Those receiving the Prime Contractor Subcontracting Award were:

-- A. Anton Frederickson, L-3 Communications Titan Corp., Reston, Va.;

-- Ralph Schrader, Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., McLean, Va.;

-- Jean-Louis Vanderstraeten, FN Manufacturing LLC, Columbia, S.C.;

-- Edward J. Casey Jr., Serco Management Services Inc., Vienna, Va.; and

-- Nancy Tuor, CH2M HILL Inc., Englewood, Co