Tex/Mex cuisine served at patriotic powwow

by Joycelyne Fadojutimi

It might have seemed like a strange place for a food competition. Longview based Johnson and Pace Engineering, Architecture and Surveying is generally associated with much less sumptuous subjects than who has the best chili, but it does have a large kitchen. This room was crowded with employees who were checking out not only various boilers of chili, but desserts and beverages to swill on top of all the savory selections. Furthermore, there was recognition of the company’s patriotism and love by Nathaniel Spraggins for their support and generosity.
Johnson and Pace is a multidisciplinary firm built on a foundation emphasizing exemplary service. It is so successful in this aim that it has a sterling reputation for excellence. As an engineer with the company, Spraggins loves his job, his co-workers and his employer. A graduate of Longview Christian School (LCS) and Texas Tech University he grew up eyeing the military and attended ROTC at Texas Tech with the intent of serving our country. Johnson and Pace, however, made him an offer too good to refuse. Although he still serves his country in the Army Reserves, he hooked up with Johnson and Pace as his life’s work.
“The biggest thing is the support I got from my company,” he says.
His civilian employer worked with him to accommodate his periodic absences while in uniform. This heartfelt concern for its workers’ loved ones is very reassuring and endearing in an era when few firms bother with much more than profits. Johnson and Pace emphasizes patriotism along with profits.
Spraggins was assigned to the 1st Expeditionary Civil Engineer Group based at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. This is a construction unit working on projects throughout the Middle East. Spraggins was with the outfit from July 2018 to January 2019. Although with pre-deployment training and post-deployment recovery time, he was away from late May to the first of February.
He learned from other reservists that some employers are not accommodating when their workers signed on in the reserves. The Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Deployment Rights Act of 1994 requires businesses to allow their employees to serve in the reserves, allowing them to leave when they are called up, and that they still have their jobs when they return. Some companies, though, go only as far as they are legally required to, and never above and beyond.
Spraggins reports that Johnson and Pace Executive Vice President Wade Johnson and Project Manager Larry Newman have been very supportive about his deployment. This made the transitions between civilian and military lifestyles much smoother than in many cases. In return, Spraggins obtained two American flags that had fluttered from a B-1B bomber during a combat mission. He also learned about awards and incentives made available by Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. This Department of Defense program strives to “promote cooperation and understanding between Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers and to assist in the resolution of conflicts arising from an employee’s committment.” Spraggins successfully nominated Johnson and Pace for this program’s Service Member Patriot Award. A grateful Newman spoke emotionally about Spraggins and his devotion to both his company and his country.
“I have been close to him,” said Newman. “It is a humbling experience to receive a flag that was flown on the back of a bomber. It is very humbling to be honored like this.”
Wade had not anticipated the intense, almost spiritual impact of the ceremony. Still, he spoke with strength and conviction upon receiving his award.
“We at Johnson and Pace are grateful for his service. It never entered my mind that we would be appreciated like this,” he said. “We appreciate Nathaniel. He is a good engineer. We appreciate his service to our nation. As a family-oriented company we gladly welcome him back home with us.”
Patriotism and capitalism are indeed great partners.