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U.S. Navy Reserve Master Chief Bruce Kitts, a seven-year employee of Bull Moose Tube Company, nominated his employer for the U.S. Department of Defense Patriot Award for their support of his service. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Bull Moose Tube Company was honored Tuesday, March 5, 2013, with the U.S. Department of Defense Patriot Award per the nomination of Bruce Kitts, a seven-year employee of Bull Moose Tube and Master Chief in the U.S. Navy Reserve. The award is given to employers nominated by reservists for supporting employees who serve in the National Guard or Reserves. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Master Chief Bruce Kitts, a seven-year employee of Bull Moose Tube and 27-year veteran of the U.S. Navy Reserve, speaks with members of the media Tuesday, March 5, 2013, after Bull Moose Tube Company was honored with the U.S. Department of Defense Patriot Award per his nomination. The award is given to employers nominated by reservists for supporting employees who serve in the National Guard or Reserves. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

U.S. Navy Reserve Master Chief Bruce Kitts and Dave Shearer of the Department of Defense Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve stand inside the Bull Moose Tube Company manufacturing facility Tuesday, March 5, 2013, in Elkhart. Bull Moose Tube was honored with the U.S. Department of Defense Patriot Award per the nomination of Kitts, a seven-year employee of Bull Moose Tube. The award is given to employers nominated by reservists for supporting employees who serve in the National Guard or Reserves. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)
Elkhart manufacturer thanked for supporting reservist employee

Posted on March 6, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

ELKHART — Navy Master Chief Bruce Kitts thanked his civilian employer, Bull Moose Tube, with the U.S. Department of Defense Patriot Award Tuesday, March 5.

“They deserve this, they earned it and I’m happy that they’re getting it,” Kitts said at a ceremony where the Indiana Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) recognized Bull Moose. “The relationship between the guard and reserve and employers across the country, it’s a partnership,” Kitts said.

“They’ve never complained once, they’ve always filled the position, they’ve always been happy to do it. I’ve never heard a negative word from them. They’re to be commended for that,” he said.

Kitts has served in the Navy for more than 27 years and has been at Bull Moose for several years now, and he said, “the time of a weekend a month and two weeks a year are long gone,” he said. “Sometimes I’m gone for six months, I’ve been gone for a year,” he said.

In his nomination for Bull Moose to get the award, he wrote, “The company has to scramble every time I’m gone to fill my position. They have gone way beyond any reasonable expectation to support my Navy career,” he said.

Warren Farkas said, “Bruce wasn’t joking when he said we have to scramble to fill his job. The downside of his being so good is it’s hard to find a replacement for him.” However, Farkas said, Kitts’ coworkers step up to fill in for Kitts’ duties as a crane operator at the company facility west of Elkhart, and the company recognizes that Kitts’ sacrifices are far greater than the company’s.

Jack Isles, general manager, said of Kitts, “we think a lot about this guy.” Isles, who served as a Marine, said, “we understand that freedom isn’t free. ... We’re proud of Bruce Kitts,” for the dedication he’s shown the country and the dedication he’s shown to the company. “Being recognized for Bruce is an honor for us,” Isles said.

Plant manager Rick Thyen said Kitts is an asset to the company. “We know he’s going to do it right, he takes care of it,” Thyen said.

David Shearer, the ESGR representative at the ceremony, said, “it takes cooperation on both sides to make it work. Employers give an awful lot.”