Santiam mill managers honored for support of military

Four supervisors at Weyerhaeuser’s Santiam Lumber mill in Lebanon were honored last week for their support for another employee, Skyler Bascom of Sweet Home, as he studies to become a chaplain in the Oregon National Guard.

Receiving the Patriot Award were Mill Manager Steve Harms, Operations Manager David Bartholomew, Log Yard and Shipping Supervisor Tonya Jensen and Office Manager Lavonne Jones.

The award was presented on May 11 by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense program that promotes cooperation and understanding between Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers and assists in the resolution of conflicts arising from an employee’s military commitment.

The award reflects efforts made to support “citizen warriors” through a wide range of measures, including flexible schedules, time off prior to and during employment, caring for families and granting leaves of absence if needed, according to the ESGR.

“It allows them to say, ‘We value the hiring of guardsmen and reservists,’” said Mark Whitney, an ESGR volunteer from Corvallis, who presented the awards.

Bascom said that Santiam Lumber, located off Highway 20 between Sweet Home and Lebanon, has gone beyond the call of duty for him. Bascom is studying to become a school counselor. Upon completion, he intends to seek a job in the Sweet Home area. Santiam Lumber continues to provide the flexibility he needs to attend school and serve in the National Guard.

Jones took care of paperwork for Bascom while he was training. Bartholomew encouraged him to go back to school. Jensen was his immediate supervisor, and she juggles schedules while he’s gone. Harms has supported his education, and he’s even participated, allowing Bascom to interview him as part of an assignment.

While the award honored Santiam Lumber supervisors, Bascom reached his current position thanks to the influence of several adults. Telling his story, he called them out.

Bascom graduated from Sweet Home High School in 2007, he said. He played football, basketball and baseball throughout high school.

Bascom said that he had a rough background, but strong adult mentors made a big difference in his life.

“Teachers, coaches and community members played a big part in encouraging me to go to college after graduation,” he said. “No one in either side of my family ever attended college.”

After graduation, Bascom enrolled at Northwest Christian University. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2012 and then went to Regent College in Canada and earned a graduate degree in 2013.

After graduating from Regent, he found himself back in east Linn County.

He was offered a job at Weyerhaeuser as a general laborer.

“After a year of sweeping floors and line chasing, I had it on my heart that I needed to give back to the Lebanon-Sweet Home community in a more meaningful way,” he said.

Remembering how his high school mentors influenced him, Bascom said, “my heart is just to repeat what they did in Sweet Home.”

At the time, Jonas Menguita, who is now operations manager for Weyerhaeuser in Cottage Grove, and Chuck Vian, now operations manager in Longview, Wash., talked to Bascom about opportunities provided by the military.

Both are veterans who love their country, Bascom said. They talked about the leadership skills he could gain. Menguita had fond memories of his chaplain, and he explained how chaplains help soldiers.

Bascom decided to seek a direct commission into the Oregon National Guard as a chaplain candidate. That meant he had to return to school and earn a master’s of divinity degree.

“Santiam Lumber’s leadership team supported me the whole time,” Bascom said.

“Last year, I had to attend a six-week training in Ft. Jackson, S.C., and they supported me (including pay) through the whole process. While at Ft. Jackson, I had it on my heart to double down on my school and enroll into Oregon State’s master’s of counseling program. Again, my heart was to serve Sweet Home in a more meaningful way.

“I wanted to pursue a master’s degree so I can serve the children in Lebanon and Sweet Home. I discussed the decision with my supervisors and, again, nothing but support. It has been a very difficult – in a good way – journey. Santiam has supported me and my family all the way through. They are being recognized for their unending support.”

Bascom said he will complete his master’s of divinity in spring 2018 and his master’s degree in counseling in spring 2019.

He is married to Amanda. They have three children, Selah, 7;  Elovie, 2; and Owen 10 months.

Currently, Bascom misses one Friday per month for drill and one Friday every other month for his master’s school counseling program, he said. He hopes to continue the journey so he can serve the Army as a chaplain and Sweet Home as a school counselor.

Santiam Lumber covers shifts and adjusts to make this happen, he said, and his plans ultimately will take him away from Weyerhaeuser.

“They all know it,” Bascom said. “And they’re supportive of it. They know this is kind of a stepping stone in my life.”

It’s unique and selfless, he said, adding that he wants “to let people know how good Santiam is.”

To his employers, he said, “I really think it’s remarkable how much you’ve supported me. I know we couldn’t do it financially – emotionally – without your support.”

“We can’t do what we do without the support of the community, our employers,” said Mjr. Cody Roach, Bascom’s immediate superior in the National Guard and a full-time chaplain at the Military Department’s Headquarters.

“I think it just boils down to supporting the people that serve their country,” Harms said.

“It’s a small sacrifice that we make to enable them to serve their country. We have a real family culture here, and we want to see people be successful.”

The culture at Santiam Lumber is oriented around helping employees succeed, Jensen said.

Bartholomew said: “I saw a desire, and my job is to support that in all people, especially here at Santiam.”