Cognosante employee Christopher Valdez works on the Recruiting team as a Talent Acquisition Specialist. He also serves as a Virginia National Guardsman. Here, Captain Valdez (Chris) shares his experiences with us about what it’s like being called to active duty; particularly when earlier this year he was called to help protect the U.S. Capitol.
1. What is it like to be called to active duty in the National Guard?
Since joining the National Guard* in 2006, I have been called to active duty several times to respond to natural disasters, provide security during periods of civil disturbance, and help with COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.
In my National Guard unit, I command a company of 70 soldiers. I also have platoon leaders, who oversee smaller groups of soldiers within the company. The soldiers in my unit have a variety of professional backgrounds, including law enforcement, healthcare, manufacturing, and defense contracting.
Each of them must leave their civilian lives (including their work and families) while on active duty, then transition back after their service is complete. It can be a difficult transition, but mindset is important. I am fortunate that I can step away from my civilian life to serve my country, then come back to a job I love, where I support Veterans and their families.
2. When you were activated, you weren’t sure how long you would be on duty. How did your team keep things moving?
The Talent Acquisition team jumped in right away to ensure our Veteran hiring and outreach initiatives would proceed without interruption.
The Cognosante team didn’t miss a beat and their combined efforts reminded me of the teamwork I experience in the military—how each member bands together to accomplish the mission. It’s an all-hands effort, from strategic direction to tactical action.
3. What additional support did you receive from Cognosante while you were away?
Several Cognosante colleagues took the time to check on my wife and son while I was away. Families are always affected when Guard members or Reservists are called to active duty, and we appreciate their support.
In addition, members of ConVERG (our internal program that brings together employees who are also part of the Veteran community) and the Employee Engagement Committee contributed funds to supplement the food provided to National Guard soldiers at the Capitol. While it did not support me directly, it did help build morale for a lot of my soldiers and for that I am grateful.
4. How can employees engage with recently deployed service members? What are some ways they can help make a difference?
When a member of your community is called to active duty, the best thing to do is contact your local National Guard or Reserve armory and find out how you can contribute to the Family Readiness Group (FRG). FRG’s are an organized team of spouses/partners and family members who support each other while their service members are deployed. My wife is a FRG leader for my unit, and she coordinates with all 70 of my soldiers’ families to keep them informed and help with day-to-day family responsibilities while their loved ones are deployed.
*More about the National Guard and Reserves
The Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard all have Reserve components comprised of service members who are in the U.S. Military, but serving part-time and maintaining civilian jobs. Reserve units are an essential part of the nation’s security because they can be mobilized quickly to respond to urgent needs.
The National Guard is a reserve component maintained by the states, but available for Federal use. It is the oldest branch of the U.S. military, dating back to the 1600’s. Each state has a National Guard unit that answers to both the Governor and the President of the United States.