Since the beginning of 2020, more than 8,000 Amazon Reservists and National Guard members have been called to action to serve their communities.
From serving as aircraft technicians transporting COVID-19 patients, to assembling essential COVID-19 test kits, Amazon employees across the U.S. have served 20,000 days in the Reserves and National Guard so far this year. With Amazon providing Military Leave of Absence to all eligible serving employees—including differential pay, continued healthcare coverage, and job protection—several employees have served more than once in 2020.
There are more than 40,000 veterans and military spouses employed at Amazon across the U.S., surpassing the company’s pledge to hire more than 25,000 by May 2021. This Veterans Day, we’re highlighting some of the current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces who have displayed courage, sacrifice, and selflessness in support of pandemic relief efforts across our nation.
U.S. Army, Senior Manager in Procurement
Nathan Swartz was called to serve as chief of staff of all supply chain operations for the COVID-19 taskforce in March 2020. At the time, he was working as a fellow in the Hiring Our Heroes program—an initiative that offers a 12-week internship program for military spouses or veterans who are within a six-month window of transitioning out of the military, allowing them to explore career opportunities with several companies, including Amazon.
Working directly for the Vice President of the United States, Swartz was tasked with transporting and distributing personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies from overseas to the U.S. hospitals and nursing homes that needed them most.
The U.S. Army has deployed Swartz to combat zones between Afghanistan and Iraq many times. He said the pace of the COVID-19 taskforce was just as intense as anything he has experienced during deployment because "every second counted" when getting masks, ventilators, rubber gloves, and face shields to essential workers as quickly as possible.
"I was fortunate that I worked in logistics, which is so closely related to supply chain. I think the skill sets that I developed in the field and the education that I received directly apply to the work I do at Amazon," said Swartz. "I am proud to say I just accepted a full-time role. I’ve been very grateful for the opportunity to get to know Amazon up close and really understand the company’s Leadership Principles It’s been great to see how closely they're tied to the military values."
New York Army National Guard, IT Support Associate
While she normally works as an IT Support Associate at Amazon, Laila Barnes is currently serving her second COVID-19 mission of 2020.
Since she joined military service at the age of 23, the New York Army National Guard has deployed Barnes to many different places. Each time means a new sacrifice. "I have missed a lot of milestones such as my children’s birthdays and holidays," she said. "I feel grateful to have a family and job that are supportive of my service."
Currently stationed at JFK Airport in New York, Barnes’ team is tasked with ensuring all passengers coming from restricted sites complete the New York State health contact-tracing form.
"I'm very proud to serve in the New York Army National Guard. Selfless service and protecting my country gives me a since of purpose and drive," said Barnes.
U.S. Navy Reserve, Workforce Staffing Senior Program Manager
At 21 years old, Ryan Roach became an ensign in the U.S. Navy when he graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
Roach said his most significant mission came in 2010 and 2011 when he had to figure out how to move more than 20 cargo plane loads of equipment and disassembled helicopters—along with the soldiers and Marines who operated them—from an empty runway in the middle of Pakistan. "Those soldiers and Marines were there for humanitarian assistance after a pretty disastrous flood in the area, and it was my job to make sure they went straight home as quickly as possible when their work was done," he said.
Roach, now a Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, has worked at Amazon since 2014. As part of the nation's response to COVID-19, he was activated for five months with only two weeks’ notice.
"My team at work has been great and super supportive," he said. "They definitely stepped up quickly to help me reassign projects and keep everything moving."
Roach expressed appreciation for companywide actions to support service. "Amazon has a policy to pay the difference in what I get from the military and what I would have made if I was still at Amazon. I like that a lot," he said. "It makes it a lot less impactful when trying to keep all of our family budgets going when I'm far away."
Reflecting on Veterans Day, he urged everyone who has served to remember the power of turning to one another.
"We've all hit the wall at some point in our lives," he said. "You're not alone, and there's probably someone out there who's gone through the exact same thing you're going through now. And we want to help. We're eager to make it easier for the next person coming along."
Hawaii National Guard, Packaging Lab Technician
Makana Middleton joined the Hawaii Air National Guard at just 17 years old. Still serving more than seven years later, he now works at Amazon as a technician in the company’s packaging lab in Seattle.
In March 2020, Middleton was called back to Hawaii to serve as an instrument and flight controls aircraft technician for the C17 fleet, ensuring they were ready to transport COVID-19 patients domestically and globally.
After completing this mission, he was then called to serve with Team Rubicon, a nonprofit and Amazon partner, to volunteer with the Oregon Office of Emergency Management. During that time, he collected data to inform pandemic relief efforts for Oregon residents.
"Seeing veterans and everyday people support their communities and use their skills to help create solutions to problems that no one anticipated was really amazing," said Middleton. "If I could go back in time and make the decision to serve all over again, I would do it in a heartbeat."
U.S. Army National Guard of Massachusetts, Operations Manager
When working for Amazon, Ty Parker is an Operations Manager at a sort center in Massachusetts. When serving in the U.S. Army National Guard, he’s a captain.
Parker was activated for a COVID-19 response mission from March to June 2020, leading a group of 700 soldiers. His unit was in charge of a dozen mobile testing teams throughout the state, where they conducted an average of 1,100 tests every day for nursing homes, local hospitals, and drive-through testing sites.
"This has been an eye-opening experience," said Parker. "My Amazon team has been very helpful and accommodating for me to take the time off that I need, and it's been a big sigh of relief knowing how supportive they are whenever I have to leave for the National Guard."
This is the second time the National Guard has activated Parker for an extended period while working at Amazon. In 2019, he was mobilized to aid in military training in El Salvador.
"Whether you're a veteran yourself or you know someone who is, I encourage everyone to reach out to a veteran this Veterans Day. I know I'll be spending most of my day checking in on all of my old buddies, making sure everyone is safe and healthy this year."
U.S. Army, Senior Product Manager for Global Mile
As the leader of the Global Mile Sustainability Team at Amazon, Lee Berry has a unique background in law, civil affairs, and supply chain logistics. This experience came in handy in April 2020 when he was called up by the U.S. Army.
"The Army and Amazon both have a core set of standards and a lot of them coincide and overlap," said Berry.
Serving as the 351st Civil Affairs Command Director of Sustainment and Logistics, Berry supported medical supply chains along the west coast, advising the Regional Health Command-Pacific on regional COVID-19 priorities and helping synchronize efforts to get PPE, testing results, and critical medical support to locations that needed supplies the most.
Having served in the Army Reserves for 21 years, Berry has had several deployments, including assignments in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Central Africa. A third-generation service member, he credits his family for supporting him when he is called to serve away from home.
"One thing that I really enjoy about being a veteran at Amazon is that the company not only provides great veteran benefits, outreach programs, and support for families and loved ones, but there is also a large community of veterans–called Warriors@Amazon–who support each other," said Berry. "And for those of us like myself who are still serving in the Army Reserves or National Guard, we receive the much-needed support whenever we are called away to serve."
Amazon pay and benefits
Along with a starting pay of at least $15 per hour, more than double the federal minimum wage, Amazon offers a range of great benefits that support employees and eligible family members, including domestic partners and their children. These comprehensive benefits begin on day one and include health care coverage, parental leave, ways to save for the future, and Military Leave of Absence for all U.S. employees who are serving Active and Reserve Duty.