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NEWS | March 3, 2022

NSWC Crane recruiter recognized across DoD as outstanding employee with disability

By Sarah K. Miller, NSWC Crane Corporate Communications

A Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) recruiter received a Secretary of Defense (SecDef) Award for Outstanding Department of Defense (DoD) Employees and Service Members with Disabilities. Therron Thomas received the 2021 award as one of five for the Department of the Navy (DoN). The award honors the accomplishments of civilian employees and service members with disabilities who have made significant contributions to the Department’s mission and represent core values.

Figure 1: Therron Thomas with his Secretary of Defense (SecDef) Award for Outstanding Department of Defense (DoD) Employees and Service Members with Disabilities.This year, Thomas will have served 38 years in the United States Government; he has 30 years of service in the military and almost eight years of service as an NSWC Crane civilian. The last five years he has worked as a recruiter.

According to the United States Census Bureau 2019 American Community Survey, the disabled population in the U.S. is about 12.7 percent. According to the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), about six percent of the U.S. population will have PTSD at some point in their lives and about 15 million adults have it during a given year.

Thomas is considered disabled and has PTSD—he has spent much of his time advocating for others who have disabilities. Thomas says, receiving this award is an honor.

“Just because someone has a passion for something and they are doing something outstanding, doesn’t mean they realize it,” says Thomas. “I don’t do this for the recognition. It’s humbling, encouraging, and it means I’m doing the right thing. I’m going to keep spending the time and I’ll wake up and keep doing it tomorrow. I do it because people deserve the effort. I am in a position as a recruiter to be a voice for others with disabilities and give them exposure to our managers that will reveal their talent with focus on their and abilities and strengths.”

He says his experience in the Army further motivates him as a recruiter.

“Certainly, I love working with people, sharing the message of Crane, raising awareness of disabilities, and bringing talented people to Crane,” says Thomas. “When I was in Iraq in ’06, there was one device that kept us safe as soldiers. I learned Crane produces the same device during my onboarding. Now, as an NSWC Crane recruiter, I know every one of those people I bring into the workforce make a difference.”

The award package for Thomas mentions his passion for encouraging and informing people with disabilities for working for the federal government. He works with managers to make sure they have visibility of these candidates from the Workforce Recruitment Program, colleges and universities, affinity groups, veteran groups, and community sources.

Thomas notes the stigma commonly held by the public about people with disabilities.

“When people hear ‘disability,’ many have already formed an opinion. I have an invisible disability, so people don’t look at me and see me as disabled. The stigma is that the minute you reveal you’re disabled, people believe you aren’t as capable—but that just isn’t true. It’s my passion to make sure people with disabilities are treated just as people and that they have the same opportunities as anyone else.”

Thomas initiated the first NSWC Crane Employee Support Group for veterans, has been a guest speaker on multiple employee panels focused on PTSD and disabilities, and worked with the Equal Employment Opportunity Office and Personnel Security Office to lead a panel to assure employees that PTSD does not result in security clearance loss.

He says there is a stigma with PTSD. Figure 2: Data according to the United States Census Bureau 2019 American Community Survey and National Center for PTSD.

“There’s a belief that if they admit they have PTSD, people think there are repercussions. That is simply false; conduct resulting from a disability can have repercussions but not simply have the disability. If more people admitted they had it and got help, we’d get the truth out to people it impacted the most. If someone breaks their leg, they would go to a doctor and no one would blame them. If someone has PTSD, they should also go to a doctor.”

Thomas also serves the community—his nomination package lists his efforts to lead change to “Indiana State Code resulting in the addition of a parking placard specifically for Hoosier disabled veterans,” assisted gathering “monetary donations for a monument and bronze veteran marker for an unmarked grave of a homeless disabled Hoosier veteran,” and has “connected with a service animal group called Paws-Ability to bring additional free service animals to those in need.”

Thomas says adding the placard for Hoosier disabled veterans started when he saw something similar in a different state.

“I created a flow chart and thought, wouldn’t it be cool if we had this,” says Thomas. “I put it on Facebook and it received recognition. I sent it to state legislation and two years later—the placard allows the same rights as a disabled license plate.”

 Thomas says his passion is engrained in what he does personally and professionally.

“People with disabilities are underrepresented—but should be afforded the same opportunities as anyone to share their talents and use their efforts. It’s like the old starfish story, where a boy is throwing starfish from the shore back into the ocean. When asked if he can make a difference when there are so many starfish he replied, I just made a difference to that one.”

About NSWC Crane

NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.

Join Our Team! NAVSEA employs a diverse, highly trained, educated, and skilled workforce - from students and entry level employees to experienced professionals and individuals with disabilities. We support today's sophisticated Navy and Marine Corps ships, aircraft, weapon systems and computer systems. We are continuously looking for engineers, scientists, and other STEM professionals, as well as talented business, finance, logistics and other support experts to ensure the U.S. Navy can protect and defend America. Please connect with NSWC Crane Recruiting at this site - https://navsea.recsolu.com/external/form/jmR6cUhZKZ_qD5QUqyMk8w or email us at crane_recruiting@navy.mil