The Inabas are a picture-perfect, all-American family: Holly Inaba is a program manager for the USC Aviation Safety and Security Program, while her husband, Col. Mark Inaba, is a member of the California Army National Guard. They have two daughters, Alexis and Greer.
But when Mark is spontaneously called to fulfill his obligation to his country, Holly is left stranded with two young children and a full-time job.
“Managing the family without him and working full time can be difficult and stressful,” she says. As Holly leaves for work around 4:45 a.m., Mark is the only one who can get their daughters, who are five and seven years old, ready for school.
Mark has been called to duty many times, travelling as far away as France and Germany. When Mark is away, there is no one to help with the children unless Holly does some serious shifting of her work schedule.
“It’s also hard on the girls who miss him terribly,” says Holly. “I have been told by teachers that they both seem affected while their father is away.”
“You have to make an effort to overcome the distance and the absence, and we work very hard to do so,” says Holly. “Mark leaves little surprises and notes around the house for us to find while he is away. Just as the girls and I leave notes and treats for him to find inside of his uniform pockets, boots, and gear.”
Luckily, Holly has never felt less than completely supported by her employers at USC when she needs to change her work schedule to support her family. In fact, she appreciated the accommodations that her manager, Thomas Anthony — director of the USC Aviation Safety and Security Program — provided for her so much that she nominated him for a national award.
“Mr. Anthony is a true American patriot who considers it an honor to support and recognize those who serve in our country.”
“I am extremely honored to support my husband’s service.” Inaba wrote in her nomination statement. “But supporting him would not be possible if it were not for my supervisor’s help and understanding.”
She continued, “Mr. Anthony is a true American patriot who considers it an honor to support and recognize those who serve in our country.”
The Department of Defense’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Division agreed with her and presented Anthony with the Patriot Award in January 2020.
“I was completely overwhelmed and honored,” Anthony stated after receiving the award.
As director of the USC Aviation Safety and Security Program, Anthony is aware of the importance of maintaining a good relationship with the military. Started in 1952 in conjunction with the U.S. Air Force, the program has been at the forefront of groundbreaking research into protecting American military pilots from deadly harm.
“We see it as our role to be the thought leader in aviation safety, to be involved in all the newest innovative ideas that exist in aviation,” explains Anthony. “Our relationship with the military is continuous. Military schools send delegates to us to check the currency of their own curriculum, and update it with the newest developments.”
Anthony was born and raised in Pasadena, California, and began his career as a high school teacher. He then transitioned to a long career at the Federal Aviation Administration, eventually becoming the FAA division manager for civil aviation security. After retiring, he came back to academia, bringing with him a healthy knowledge of aviation safety and a strong respect for the struggles of the military reserve members he works with.
“I guess I helped create this problem in my old job,” he quips.
Anthony has nothing but praise for Holly Inaba, who leads the effort to get USC safety courses in military bases around the country. “We recently had a course brought to a missile defense agency in Virginia,” he recalls. “Holly was able to get us through the tightest security in the history of our program.”
“Being cognizant of how to support a military family is very important to me as a manager,” said Anthony. “It is incumbent upon us to work with each of these families, to make their difficult transition go as smoothly as possible.”