By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, May 4, 2015 – Two principal Defense Department leaders are finalists in the 2015 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, DoD officials announced today.
The Service to America organization’s website says the medal winners represent the many federal employees whose work makes the country better, healthier and stronger.
Susan S. Kelly, director of the Pentagon’s transition-to-veterans program office, is a management excellence finalist, and Charles E. Milam, principal director of military community and family policy, is a finalist in the career achievement category.
Preparing Service Members for Civilian Life
Kelly is recognized for transforming and enhancing the way the federal government annually prepares more than 200,000 service members for jobs, education and personal skills needed for civilian life, according to a Service to America Medals release.
Finding employment and transitioning to back to civilian life can be difficult and sometimes traumatic for service members. Kelly led the sweeping overhaul of a 20-year-old program, helping service members begin considering their transition out of the military long before discharge, and collaborating with several federal agencies for extensive and focused assistance than was provided in the past, the release said.
“[Kelly] built this program from an empty room with simply the law and a White House mandate to guide her,” said Stephanie Barna, principal deputy secretary of defense for readiness and force management.
Program Stood Up in Less Than Two Years
The now fully fledged program operates at 206 sites worldwide, covers every service branch and incorporates other federal agencies, Barna said, adding that Kelly stood up the program in less than two years.
Among the numerous challenges in revamping the transition program was working with all branches of the military, their different traditions and varying populations. “Susan has really had to work to bring each of them into this program in accordance with their culture,” Barna said.
“That’s the crux of the entire change -- having the system acknowledge that everyone, whether you are a four-star general or serving only four years in active duty, will separate from the military service and go into civilian life,” Kelly said. “No matter how old you are, you will not go fishing and hunting the rest of your life.”
Programs for Service Members, Families
During three decades of federal service, Milam devoted his career to improving the lives of millions of service members and their families, DoD officials said.
Milam was recognized improving the lives of millions of service members and their families by instituting many programs that, for example, helped deployed soldiers stay in touch with loved ones back home, and increased health and wellness options on bases.
In the wellness arena, Milam developed the Healthy Base Initiative to combat readiness, which offers anti-obesity incentives, and health and fitness programs.
DOD officials note that one of the main causes for the release of personnel from active duty is their failure to meet height and weight standards, and that good health and fitness are critical to combat readiness.
“All of Chuck’s work is cutting-edge and cost effective, with a laser-sharp focus on the well-being of troops and their families,” said Rosemary Williams, the DoD deputy assistant secretary for military community and family policy. “He has impacted the military community so positively and so globally.”
“It’s a lifelong mission for me to give back to the military,” Milam said. “I think about what service members and their families have now and what they could have tomorrow. I’m in a job where I can help effect change.”