August 1, 2018

US Department of Defense Honors Desiree Drindak with The Patriot Award

Drindak is Interim Director of the Office of Veteran and Military Education

Vice President of Enrollment Management Clayton Steen, left, Desiree Drindak, interim director of the Office of Veteran and Military Education, with Emil Baker, director of military outreach, New York State, who presented her award.

Desiree Drindak, interim director of the Office of Veteran and Military Education (OVME), Office of Enrollment Management (OEM), has been recognized with The Patriot Award by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) for her “support and flexibility on behalf of military reserve employees.”

The Patriot Award recognizes efforts made to support citizen-warriors through a wide range of measures, including flexible schedules, time off prior to and after deployment, caring for families and granting leaves of absence, if needed.

The award was presented at Drindak’s 1 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs, office by Vietnam veteran Emil Baker representing the DoD’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Committee.

Married to a Navy Reserve pilot, Drindak understands the needs of military reservists and their families firsthand. She is the immediate past president of the New York State Advisory Council on Military Education.

Drindak was nominated for the award by OVME Recruiter Alison Long, a military reservist deploying next week for the Air Force. Long said, “Desiree Drindak has never questioned when I shared that I had Reserve duty. As the spouse of a Navy reservist, she understands the requirements and travel that coincide with military duty. She does not request that I do work while on military orders and stands by her integrity as a New York state employee in doing so. She supports the time off without question, never asks me to adjust Reserve duty to fit the needs of civilian work and supports the request with SUNY Empire State College Human Resources. I do not feel stress as a reservist working with Desiree. I know that my time is respected, even if I deploy. I feel confident that I will not be overlooked because of my absence.”

The majority of staff members of OVME are affiliated with the military, but Long is the only one still active with a military branch.

An emotional Drindak was surprised in her office by Baker and Lance Hackett, an Army National Guard service member who serves in DoD public affairs, as well as studies business management at ESC.

Also there to honor Drindak were Vice President Clayton Steen and Janet Aiello-Cerio, of OEM, a gathering of OVME staff and members of Office of Communications and her supervisor, Chris Whann, executive director of regional operations, via Facetime.

Drindak expressed deep gratitude for the award, commitment to her role and added, “It wouldn’t be possible without the staff here. We act as a team to get the work done when Alison is away.”

Steen said, “This honor is truly well-deserved. Desiree’s knowledge and passion for veterans’ and military education, as well as her leadership and dedication to her team, is second to none.”

Whann said, “It has been my honor to work with Desiree Drindak. She has a great reputation for her unswerving commitment to veteran and military students and their dependents. As a supervisor, her commitment has extended to ensuring that our employees with military service commitments can perform those duties to keep our country safe, while maintaining their obligations to their families and colleagues.”

Nearly 1,100 military-aligned students are currently enrolled at SUNY Empire. The college supports veterans, guard, reserve and active-duty military with special tuition rates and by waiving most fees, an overall culture supportive of veterans and members of the military through military advising, as well as education partnerships with the military and the SALUTE National Honor Society. The college also grants academic credit for college-level military training recommended by the American Council on Education.

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