The White Sands Missile Range’s Volunteer Program provides the WSMR community and military spouses an opportunity to gain workforce experience and firsthand knowledge of WSMR’s mission while fulfilling a need throughout organizations within the community. In 2015, the success of the program resulted in $376,945 of cost savings.
WSMR Army Community Service Acting Army Volunteer Corps Coordinator Anna Maria Vestal helped launch the program in the late 90s. Vestal took a five year break from the program and returned to the position as coordinator in 2013. After almost 20 years of service as the program’s lead, Vestal will be leaving for a position she has accepted overseas. Personal Financial Readiness Specialist Andrew Lucht will be taking over the logistics of the program until the position can be permanently filled.
“It will be difficult to fill the shoes of Anna Maria when she moves to Germany,” said ACS Director Patsy Gomez. “Ms. Vestal has dedicated herself to the Volunteer program and has more knowledge and expertise than anyone can imagine. However, we will try and Andrew will be available to answer questions and keep the program in compliance.”
The program is open to civilian personnel from the military and civilian communities and military personnel and minors who have parental consent. All Department of Defense organizational agencies can accept voluntary services to include health related services, museum or natural resources, and programs providing services to members of the Armed Forces and the families of members.
Understanding the Law for Volunteers
In order to register, applicants must submit a volunteer agreement and a DD Form 2793 must be submitted to the organization’s volunteer coordinator. The documents can be found through myarmyonesource.com, once you register through the site, or through your volunteer coordinator. Every organization that is hosting a volunteer has an assigned volunteer coordinator. According to WSMR Attorney-Advisor Myles Blanchard, a service record that documents the volunteer hours worked, the jobs performed and training and awards must be kept by the volunteer and the volunteer coordinator. Records must be kept for three years following the termination of voluntary service.
Volunteers must have a position description and are not allowed to hold a policy-making position, supervise paid employees or perform governmental functions. Volunteers are permitted to use a government vehicle when the commander determines the need and the use of the vehicle can be provided without detriment to the organization. The same screening process applies to volunteers as to government employees when obtaining a government driver’s license.
Though a lot of volunteering expenses cannot be compensated, they can be reimbursed for incidental expenses, such as gas for using your vehicle for duty. A volunteer can also be compensated if they are injured during their volunteer duty, if the injury was not caused by willful or criminal misconduct.
Why is documentation important?
Vestal said it is important to register because ACS reports the number of volunteer hours to the Garrison leadership on a regular basis. Aside from a reduction of reported volunteer hours, which results in a reduction of funding, she said the lack of documentation could also mean the difference between receiving compensation for an injury and not receiving compensation. She said there have been instances where volunteers were injured during their volunteer duty, one who was severely injured and broke her leg received worker’s compensation because her volunteer hours were documented.
Another volunteer who had fallen and had injured herself was not covered because she did not document her hours for that day.
It could also affect any future employment if volunteer hours are listed on a resume or a job applications. Vestal said she has had situations where she has been contacted by potential employers who are asking to verify volunteer hours. At times, Vestal said she has not been able to confirm volunteer hours because they were not documented. She said she understands that sometimes some individuals want to volunteer out of the goodness of their hearts and would not like to get credit. However, in doing so, it could greatly affect the installation and the volunteer themselves. For more information on how to volunteer, call ACS at (575) 678-6767.