Two military resale employees — one each from the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) and the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) — were among 21federal employees who were recipients of the Outstanding Department of Defense (DoD) Employees and Service Members with Disabilities Award.
This year’s awards mark 41 years of DoD recognizing its employees and service members with disabilities. Every year since October 1981, the Defense Department has honored those who have made significant contributions to its mission and best demonstrate the core values of their respective DoD components.
The Defense Department has set a goal for its agencies that 2 percent of the workforce be made up of people with targeted disabilities, which are considered more serious health conditions.
Among the honorees during the Oct. 7 ceremony — again held virtually from the Pentagon due to pandemic protocols — were DeCA’s John Turner III, assistant commissary officer at the Fort Bragg North, N.C., Commissary, who has since retired, and AAFES’s Mark Stopani, stockroom manager at the Kadena AB, Okinawa, Exchange.
The following are their stories, filled with hard work and dedication to the mission, with the ultimate goal being to fulfill patrons’ needs to the upmost of their abilities,
- DeCA: John Turner III
“John Turner has made outstanding contributions to DeCA’s mission through his work at the Fort Bragg North Commissary and in the surrounding community,” said Bill Moore, DeCA’s director and chief executive officer (CEO).
“John’s commitment to service has distinguished him as a valuable employee who is deserving of recognition as a DoD Outstanding Disabled Employee of the Year.”
Turner retired from DeCA this summer. He was chosen from five submissions from across the agency to be the nominee.
He began his civil service career in 1983 at Fort Bragg’s main commissary. Between 1986 and 1989, Turner worked at the Army’s Troop Support Agency (TSA) European Commissary Regions at Bremerhaven, Garlstedt and Bamberg in Germany, before returning to Fort Bragg for good in 1989.
“I have worked for the agency for 38 years and nine months and have spent 35 years of that career at the Braggs,” said Turner, referring to his time at Fort Bragg’s North and South commissaries.
“Throughout my career, DeCA has provided a good life for my family,” he stated. “I raised three children, and I have been afforded the opportunity to both work and live in another country.”
Maureen McCarthy, store director at Fort Bragg North, said, “I’ve worked with John at both Bragg stores. We shared an office here when he was the perishable store manager, and I was the semi perishable store manager. You really get to know a person under those close conditions, and I found John to be deeply committed to his family and his profession.
According to Kevin Hennelly, DeCA’s director of equal employment opportunity, Turner is among good company as this year’s DeCA nominee for the honor.
“I have attended the award ceremony at the Pentagon on several occasions,” Hennelly said. “I’m always impressed by the people, like John Turner and the other nominees, who overcame their disabilities and make important contributions to the accomplishment of the mission of the Department.
“When we focus on what these teammates can do for DeCA, both they and the agency benefit by putting their talent to work,” he said, adding that a about 12.26 percent of the DeCA permanent workforce has a reportable disability and 2.28 percent have severe or “targeted” disabilities.
- AAFES: Mark Stopani
“The Exchange is dedicated to a diverse, inclusive workforce,” said Exchange Director/CEO Tom Shull. “Associates like Mark Stopani make the Exchange stronger and are valuable contributors to our mission of serving the best customers in the world.”
Stopani served his country in the Marine Corps for six years, and has spent the last 18 years continuing his service to the military at the Kadena AB Exchange.
While associates with disabilities may face more challenges in learning new tasks, Stopani advises they focus on what sets them apart.
“Look for your strengths,” Stopani said. “Each individual has something to offer which others cannot.”
That may be as simple as a hobby. Stopani is an avid fisherman and has worked to bulk up the fishing equipment selection at the Kadena Exchange. His efforts and knowledge of the products have moved the Kadena Exchange from 68th in fishing gear sales to second among Exchange stores worldwide.
“Mark is such an asset to our team and can always be depended upon to take the initiative to improve customer service in whatever way he can,” said Kadena Exchange Main Store Manager Flordeliza Payton.
“Whether that’s teaching himself Japanese so he can better communicate with associates and shoppers or tackling the transition to a new inventory management software, Mark is a leader among his peers.”
Stopani is motivated by his passion for serving those who serve. “Because I am prior military, and my dad and brother served as well, I truly enjoy giving back to the military community,” he said. “I strive daily to provide the best customer service I can.”
According to AAFES, about 14 percent of the Exchange workforce includes people with disabilities. About 4 percent of the Exchange’s employees have targeted disabilities.
The Exchange, DoD’s largest retailer, works to recruit, retain and advance people with targeted disabilities. Non-competitive hiring for entry-level positions, providing reasonable accommodations, active community outreach and retaining interns from the Workforce Recruitment Program are all tools available to Exchange managers in hiring those with disabilities.
Sources: DeCA, AAFES
Edited by Larry Lapka