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NEWS | April 21, 2021

AMCOM HR specialist declines telework, returns to office for Soldiers

By Michelle Gordon U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command

During spring 2020, when nearly everyone was preparing to telework, Joe Thomas was heading into the office daily because he had a superpower: COVID-19 antibodies.

Thomas, a human resources specialist with the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, attended a conference in Washington, D.C., in March 2020. Shortly after returning home to Alabama, he, his wife and two daughters were all diagnosed with the virus.

“We were some of the first cases in this region and we were the first positive cases tested at [Fox Army Health Center],” he said.

After recovering and quarantining, Thomas learned he had COVID-19 antibodies, which gave him a certain level of immunity and an extremely low risk of transmission. Thomas said he decided to return to the office because the Secretary of Defense had just issued a stop-movement order, essentially freezing all military in place just before the busiest time of year for HR — the season where many permanent changes of station take place.

“I felt like it was a bigger risk for me to not be in the office because there were so many things changing,” he said. “Soldiers were coming in and working and the command group was working; I felt like they needed support because HR is a pretty key function for them.”

The AMCOM HR office supports approximately 150 military service members. It also provides support to other units across Redstone Arsenal, and many of the military systems were not yet accessible outside of the office network.

“They were letting key positions move with exceptions to policies,” Thomas said. “We were responsible for looking at quarantine procedures for the locations they were headed and determining how quarantine would be handled at that location — that was just one of the things we were working on.”

In addition to his COVID-19 requirements, Thomas also tracked arrivals and departures of AMCOM Soldiers, provided the AMCOM commanding general with board results and maintained an accurate accounting of awards and performance due dates. He assisted on the civilian side of HR too — printing awards, picking up and storing supplies and preparing computers for inbound new G-1 employees.

For his efforts, Thomas was selected as an AMCOM MVP for the month of October.

“Supporting the Soldiers that had to be there was the main reason I wanted to be in the office,” Thomas said. “A lot of things were changing that affected careers and promotions during that time period, and I felt like it was pretty important for me to be there for the Soldiers. Whether it was at home or in the office, it doesn’t matter, as long as someone was there providing the support that they needed. I’m just glad I was able to be there and do my job as best I could.”