By Joe Iorio, Media Relations Staff
At the Port Authority, a new employee resource group has formed to not only advocate for the recruitment of veterans but, more importantly, to give them a lasting support system once they’re hired.
Started in November 2017, the Port Authority Veterans Association (PAVA) represents an active community of Port Authority professionals, both military veterans and supportive colleagues, who led efforts to help retired, active duty and reserve members of the U.S. armed forces.
The group’s 80 members are led by the association’s inaugural president, Sean Kazmark. He is assisted by PAVA Vice-President Sam Orlan, Treasurer Ryan Flanagan and Secretary Francis Caponi.
“When military veterans begin their transition to civilian life, many struggle with finding a career that has adequate resources to represent their interests and concerns,” said Kazmark, who works with Port Operations and is a Petty Officer 1st Class in the U.S. Navy.
Understanding the value of vets to the agency, the Port Authority recently launched its most comprehensive veterans’ recruitment plan ever, with the goal of U.S. military service vets making up 5 percent of the PA’s workforce by 2020. Adopted in December 2017, the new policy is expected to contribute greatly to the agency’s efforts to continually diversify the workplace.
The idea for PAVA surfaced in 2013, when Flanagan, now a Port Department employee and then a Port Authority Leadership Fellow, was working with the Human Resources and Marketing Departments to roll out a new veterans’ recruitment program. Although Flanagan isn’t a veteran, he was committed to helping vets join and thrive at the Port Authority.
“As we worked to improve this system, it became more obvious that the agency also needed an internal resource group for the growing number of veterans already working for the agency,” Flanagan said.
On November 8, 2017, after years of planning and preparation with assistance from Kazmark and Orlan, PAVA became a reality with a kick-off event at the Port Authority’s 4 World Trade Center headquarters.
“The Port Authority is a great place for veterans to start their civilian careers because it allows you to be part of something bigger than yourself,” said Orlan, a retired U.S. Army captain who works with the Tunnels, Bridges & Terminals department.
Yesterday, the New York State Senate presented Orlan with the Liberty Medal, one of the highest civilian honors a New Yorker can receive. The award is given to individuals meriting special commendation for exceptional, heroic, or humanitarian acts and achievements on behalf of fellow New Yorkers. Orlan was honored for distinguished service while deployed as a scout platoon leader in Afghanistan.
“Many veterans feel a sense of missing purpose when they leave the military, but I think that the mission of this agency is a rewarding alternative because we work to achieve a greater good for the region,” he said.