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Curtis Byrd: an Air Force veteran serving members and his country

While most people have the holiday season on their minds, Curtis Byrd, a systems analyst at BlueCross, is thinking ahead to 2019.

That’s when he’ll deploy to Afghanistan for several months of active service in the United States Air National Guard.

BlueCross Curtis Byrd air force
Curtis Byrd during his Air Force active duty

“It’s going to be a long one,” the technical sergeant and KC-10 refueler aircraft mechanic says with characteristic understatement. “Since I joined BlueCross in 2010, I’ve deployed a lot. I’ve been to Guam multiple times for nuclear defense , I’ve been to Italy and Spain, and I’ve flown missions over the Baltic Sea.”

“I have five tours under my belt and I’ve probably been called to active duty over 100 times.”

From blue skies to BlueCross

Curtis joined the Air Force in 2006 and was released from active duty in 2009. He has continued to serve his country as part of the Tennessee Air National Guard, which will allow him to retire from the military with full benefits.

“When you’re air crew, flying crew chief or a mechanic, it’s different than the Army,” he says. “We don’t go for a year or 14 months at a time. We go for 30, 60, 120, 180 days at a time, and we go more often. In 2008, I flew for 254 days that year. We were constantly going.”

This video highlights what drives Curtis to continue serving – and how BlueCross and his colleagues have supported his mission.

Company camaraderie

“Being an active veteran, BlueCross is really responsive to our needs,” Curtis says  in the video. “BlueCross supports its veteran employees by enabling us to create an employee resource group [ERG] where we can get together and talk about military stuff.”

In addition to the Veterans ERG, BlueCross supports employees who have served by:

  • Updating HR policies to ensure there is no period without pay when a serviceman or servicewoman gets called up for military duty
  • Providing opportunities and encouragement to represent BlueCross in offsite events
  • Sponsoring causes such as the Medal of Honor Heritage Center fundraising events and the Veteran Entrepreneurship Program at UTC fundraising event
BlueCross Air Force refueler
An Air Force refueler in action

Jason Fleming, compliance manager and major in the Army Reserve (Ret.), leads the Veterans ERG, where Curtis is also part of the command group.

“There is a law that says companies must re-employ veteran, Reserve and Guard service members who deploy and come back,” Jason says. “BlueCross certainly complies with the law, but there’s a better attitude behind it, and that is, ‘We want to really take care of you.’”

That care stems from the BlueCross mission of “peace of mind through better health,” a mission that extends to members and our employees.

“Veterans need peace of mind when we come back,” Jason says  in the video.

“There can be a lot of chaos and difficulty at home just getting back into routines. So having some peace at work is really awesome.”

For Curtis, his current routine means he’s frequently away from work, home and his family. While he looks forward to completing his Guard service in seven years, he is fully invested in the importance of his service in the here and now.

“I started something a long time ago, and I intend to finish it,” Curtis says in the video. “I think I’m doing some good for the world, and I just want to make the world a better place.”

About Jesse Thompson, Senior Communications Specialist

A photo of the authorJesse joined the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee corporate communications team in 2017. A Chattanooga native, he has more than 15 years’ experience in content creation, management, and strategy for consumer audiences, including a six-year stint in health care marketing.

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