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Disability Program manager helps employees with disabilities use talents for mission success

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ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – Stephanie Hawthorne, Robins Air Force Base Disability Employment Program manager, works with people with disabilities to gain employment under Schedule A and Warrior/Workforce Recruitment Program. Hawthorne also works with Robins’ employees with disabilities providing reasonable accommodations in the work place. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tommie Horton)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

The Installation Disability Program manager at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, helps base managers recognize how people with disabilities are an essential part of the Air Force mission’s success.

Stephanie Hawthorne, who has served in various capacities instrumental in the hiring of people with disabilities at the base for many years, became the Installation Disability Program manager in Robins’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office in May.    

Hawthorne said diversity is key to mission success.

“Diversity comes in the form of race, religion, sexual orientation and people with disabilities,” she said. “People with disabilities have great things to contribute to the Air Force mission.  They are forward-thinkers who know how to use their disability as an asset.”

In her current role, the Biloxi, Mississippi, native helps people with disabilities in a range of ways.

“I manage the Schedule A Program that assists people with disabilities outside of Robins, as well as current base employees with disabilities, by helping them narrow down positions they may qualify for, review their resume, and help them with other supporting documents to apply for jobs at the base, she said.

“Then, their packet is sent to organizations’ points of contact so if those managers are looking for a Schedule A applicant, they have a local listing of candidates within their organization or they can request that I send them the listing from the database that I manage,” Hawthorne said. 

The program manager said she often reminds the individuals she assists that Schedule A is a hiring authority, and it does not guarantee that a person with a disability will be hired based solely on the individual’s Schedule A status.

Additionally, Hawthorne said the Disability Employment Program helps with identifying and setting up reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities working at the base.

“The Disability Employment Program’s purpose is to help people with disabilities gain employment under the Schedule A program and Warrior/Workforce Recruitment Program,” she said. “The program also helps employees with disabilities with reasonable accommodations in the workplace.”

Hawthorne also directs, manages and leads the Installation Disability Program Committee, a group that’s part of the base’s recognition of various types of diversity at the installation.

‘As the Installation Disability Program manager, it is my job to educate everyone on various policies that govern the treatment of people with disabilities,” she said. “I also help employees come up with reasonable accommodations, and I advise management on providing accommodations in the workplace.” 

Diversity in the workplace is becoming more relevant, and it’s important to include people with disabilities in that discussion as well, Hawthorne said.

“Currently, we are putting more emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace,” she said.  “As part of that, we are also ensuring that we address people with disabilities on how to be more inclusive and capitalize on what people with disabilities offer in the workplace.” 

 The 48-year-old mother of two said the best part of her job is being able to help people with disabilities.

 “Sometimes, it’s not the accommodations that these people need as much as it is that they just need someone to listen and understand what they are going through,” she said. “Many people with disabilities feel like there isn’t anyone that is here for them. I want people with disabilities to know I hear them and they matter.”

People may contact Hawthorne via e-mail at stephanie.hawthorne.1@us.af.mil, through the Disability Program Workflow e-mail at 78ABW.EO.DisabilityProgram@us.af.mil, and by telephone at 912-387-0866 during her telework hours of Monday – Friday, from 6 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.