Deployed employees: The war with Iraq is leaving some areas on campus short-staffed
When Army reservist Bryan Cooling received military orders in February that he was being called to active duty, he was gone within a few days.
Not only did the abrupt departure from Iowa City require him to act fastmaking sure appropriate legal documents were in order and saying good-bye to his familyit left his coworkers at Facilities Services Group (FSG) scrambling.
Cooling, a clerk in FSGs staff development unit, handles computer training for staff members regarding safety practices and is one of only a handful of employees familiar with the software. Hell be gone for up to two years.
Faced with filling this sudden void was Dave Jackson, assistant to the director of FSG, and he is not alone. Departments across campus are feeling the effects of military deployment related to the war with Iraq.
According to Elaine Haddy in Human Resources, employees currently on military leave range from custodians to security officers to nurses. As of late March, the list includes 21 merit and 15 P&S employees and two graduate assistants. While the Office of the Provost has yet to receive military orders for members of the faculty, the registrars office reports that 34 students have withdrawn, or plan to withdraw, due to military leave.
It seems that everybody knows somebody who is affected by the deployment, Jackson says. And, no matter what your stand is on the war, I think we all support our troops.
UI policy states two options for replacing employees on military leave: reassignment of existing staff or use of temporary workers. Jackson says his staff approached the workload issue as a team.
We all sat down and looked at Bryans responsibilities. Each staff member volunteered to take a portion of the work, he recalls, adding that another unit head offered clerical coverage from their area. Because of the states budget situation, we were already carefully looking at vacancies. We are used to being creative, and we just saw this as another challenge.
Darlene Clausen, Coolings immediate supervisor, says it was difficult to imagine hiring temporary staff to fill in.
It takes so long to get someone trained, she says. Bryans knowledge of the database is extensive. Lucky for us, hes a detailed guy and he left instructions for us.
A job will be waiting for Cooling when his service is up; federal law requires employers to offer comparable positions to employees returning from military leave. In addition, the state of Iowa pays employees on military leave for the first 30 calendar days of missed work and also maintains benefits during the absence.
As of late March, two other FSG staff members are on military leave: Ed Dettmer, a custodian in the Main Library, and Dan Sovers, a student assistant in Design and Construction Services. More deployments are expected.
Were all watching the news, Jackson says. Every bit of information we get on the war has upped the ante, and weve been wondering who else may be called.
To help boost morale of their deployed colleagues, Joey Haug, a secretary in FSG, is coordinating the delivery of regular care packages to the three employees called so far. Included in recent packages were copies of fyi, photos of the Old Capitol dome replacement, phone cards, candy, sunscreen, paperback books, home-baked cookies, and Hawkeye magnets.
We want to send them things that will make them feel like they are still part of the University, Jackson says. We like to keep it humorous, too, and I think they appreciate that. Lets face itwithin a couple of weeks time, they are going from a benign university community right into active duty preparing for war.
In addition, Jackson and Haug have been keeping 630 FSG staff members up-to-date on the employees military assignments via an electronic mailing list, sharing letters and photos from the departed employees. The pair also posts flyers throughout the department with pictures and information, and leaves greeting cards at a reception desk for staff to sign.
Although there was no time for the department to arrange a formal send-off, Cooling let his colleagues know how he wants to celebrate his return.
Were going to have Chinese food, Clausen says.
Article by Sara Epstein Moninger