Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) Benjamin (Ben) Sides has been named by CAREERS and the disABLED Magazine a 2021 Employee of the Year for his professional and advocacy efforts on behalf of people with disabilities in the workplace and in the community. The award was officially announced during a virtual ceremony by in July.
SSA Sides became disabled after losing his right leg above the knee after being struck by a truck in Antananarivo, Madagascar, in November 2003, while on duty as the embassy’s regional security officer (RSO). After hospitalizations, rehabilitation, and months of physical therapy with a prosthetic leg, he wanted to continue as a special agent and was able to maintain his career and resume special agent duties.
In SSA Sides’ acceptance speech, he recognized the support of DSS and other offices in the State Department that support employee rights.
“I am honored to accept this award on behalf of the Department and Diplomatic Security. It is only with the assistance and cooperation of others such as the Disability Action Group, the Office of Accessibility and Accommodation, and the Office of Civil Rights that my advocacy work on the behalf of disabled employees and potential employees achieved results,” said SSA Sides. “I am also fortunate to work with many in DS Public Affairs and the DS Council for Diversity and Inclusion on several outreach and recruitment efforts in our activities to communicate with the American public along with fostering an inclusive and diverse workforce.”
SSA Sides has been serving as division chief, functional training operations, at the Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) in Blackstone, Virginia, where he played a kay role in the relocation of FASTC from the DSS Interim Training Facility in West Virginia to its permanent location in Blackstone, Virginia. The transfer involved moving hundreds of employees and more than $100 million in equipment. SSA Sides’ earlier accomplishments included three RSO tours, and assignment as the special agent in charge of the DSS Chicago Field Office.
In an interview with the State Department’s Knowledge Portal, SSA Sides explained that his personal experience “fed a desire to assist others with similar situations along with a natural progression in my outreach work for recruiting and mentorship opportunities with both Diplomatic Security and the department.” He actively promotes full and equal participation and inclusion of people with disabilities, through recruitment efforts and content production for the department, including a on the Americans with Disabilities Act in the July 2020 issue of State Magazine.
“It is only with the assistance and cooperation of others that my advocacy work on the behalf of employees with disabilities and potential employees achieved results,” said SSA Sides. “Creating an inclusive workplace is a team effort.”