The employees at Northrop Grumman's Rolling Meadows facility spend every working day on complex defense projects for our military. But for the 150 employees volunteering Saturday to stuff USO care packages, it was the little things such as razors and lip balm that hammered home the company's connection to the men and women serving with our military around the globe.
"We feel that tie to the warfighter," said Kim Brown, Northrop Grumman's human resources director from Lake Zurich, as she put a toiletry kit of goodies inside a plastic bag bound for troops overseas. The 7,500 care packages prepared Saturday by the company's volunteers contained dozens of personal items -- from sunscreen and toothbrushes to $100 phone cards and Slim Jim beef jerky.
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When employees work on laser technology, "you really don't get many opportunities to say, 'Here is a finished product,'" said Evon Grant-Nixon, business manager of Northrop's Infrared Countermeasures division. "This brings it home a little more. It's something they can touch and feel."
Wearing her pink "Life is Good" cap, the breast cancer survivor from River Forest said stuffing the care packages for troop is "a small token of appreciation for what they do for us."
Northrop Grumman is the largest defense contractor contributor to the USO, the private not-for-profit agency that assists troops and military families, said Sara Lottie, an account manager with the USO who recently spent 15 months distributing care packages with the USO in Afghanistan.
"It's the little things. Sometimes someone is really excited because they need a toothbrush," Lottie said.
"This is a group of people who understand what we do," said Jeffrey Q. Palombo, sector vice president and general manager at the plant. He said the personal care packages are just a logical extension of "what we do every day." In a festive room decorated with red, white and blue balloons, a bell would ring and cheers would erupt every time the group completed the 540 packages needed to fill a pallet.
Packing supplies for troops is a reminder that "doing this for them" is much easier than "being them," noted Michelle Anders, a software engineer from Bartlett.
"It's a thank-you from home," said Janine Nyre, a vice president from Lake Barrington, who stood on the assembly line with her husband, David Nyre, a project manager, as they inserted some paper goods that included a thank-you card from Northrup. Their daughter is Air Force 2nd Lt. Erin Nyre, who is training in Oklahoma to be a pilot.
"You have no clue what it means," said Kevin York, a logistics program manager from Huntley who was a captain in the Marines. When he was in Iraq, he received a care package with a tiny United States flag folded by a Cub Scout troop from Illinois.
"I carried that flag with me every day for two years," he said. "It means the world to us."
Northrop Grumman's facility in Rolling Meadows oversees work in four states and produces aircraft targeting and navigation systems as well as electronics and communication systems designed to protect troops, vehicles and equipment from attacks by modern weapons.