On April 6, Chris Keene, maintenance systems supervisor in Bar Harbor, was presented with the Service Member Patriot Award. The award reflects the efforts made on behalf of National Guard members 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.
Keene was nominated by Ben Noyes, a building automation technician, who reports to Keene in his work for the Facilities team. Along with his full-time work at JAX, Noyes is an active member of the Air National Guard, where he currently holds the rank of E6 Technical Sergeant.
The award was presented to Keene in a ceremony in Roscoe’s Cafe by retired Brigadier General Dwaine Drummond. Noyes, members of Noyes’ squadron, and 60 JAX employees attended the event.
“We lose some of our service members because they don't get the kind of support needed in order to deploy. Ben wouldn't have been able to do this without Chris' support,” said Drummond. “I'm not surprised JAX provides this level of exceptional support to those who are deployed; the culture you have here makes this possible.”
As a building automation technician, Noyes’ primary responsibilities include monitoring the temperature, humidity and pressure sensors in every mouse room to ensure they report accurate room conditions, and working with the HVAC team to check the operation of the equipment and respond when something isn’t working properly.
When he was called up for a six-month deployment to Iraq in fall of 2021, Noyes worked with Keene to identify top priority responsibilities that he could work on before he departed.
“Fortunately, Ben was able to give us a few months’ notice, so we were able to shift our focus to tasks we could not forgo for nine to 10 months. We achieved that goal while other coworkers stepped up to manage tasks that otherwise would have been assigned to Ben,” Keene said.
Noyes nominated Keene for the Service Member Patriot Award to show his appreciation for how understanding Keene has been with both his long absence and regular short time-off requests. When Noyes returned from his deployment, he had almost a year of Guard weekends to make up. In addition, his wife and children were finishing out the school year in France. He ended up taking all his banked vacation time to help them return to Maine, then made up his missed Guard time two days a week over a couple of months. Keene’s support during this period was essential to Noyes’ smooth transition back to work.
Keene will have worked at JAX for 39 years as of April 2023. As the maintenance systems supervisor for 10 technicians and two electrical automation interns, his primary responsibilities include overseeing state-of-the-art building automation controls and all animal, office, and science heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
Given his numerous responsibilities, Keene missed Noyes’ presence during his deployment, not only because of the workload he oversees, “but also because Ben is a great person to work with,” Keene said. He reported that when Noyes returned, the team picked up right where they left off —a much better place with him around.
Noyes describes his return to JAX in equally positive terms: “It went as well as I could have hoped for. I live on the other side of Bangor, so the commute is 60 miles one way. Getting back into doing that every day wasn’t easy. In Iraq I could bike the mile and a half from my housing unit to work every day. I did get soaked the one time it rained and took the van whenever there were dust storms, but it doesn’t compare to my drive. Fortunately, the drive was really the only hard part of getting back into work. Calibrations are always there, and calls keep me busy. People let me ease back into a routine and now it’s like I never left.”
The comments about the differences in his commute obviously made an impression on Keene: “Ben told me he would take a Nor’ Easter over a sandstorm any day!” he said.
Keene, who is a U.S. Navy veteran, is pleased to have received the Service Member Patriot Award, and he is glad that he was given the opportunity by JAX to make sure the workforce is treated fairly, and that he can make a positive difference for situations like this. JAX has been a longtime supporter of veterans and active-duty soldiers, and Keene appreciates the opportunity to support Noyes’ service.
He is also quick to pass the praise along to others.
“This ‘thank you’ award is not just for me, but for everyone on the crew that covered Ben’s responsibilities in his absence. In addition, I want to make sure there’s a big ‘thank you’ to Ben for helping protect our air space for all of us at home during his deployment,” Keene said.