Deadline Nears for Employer Support Award Nominations
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2012 Members of the National Guard and reserves have just 10 more days to nominate their employers for the Defense Department’s highest award recognizing employers who have gone the extra mile to support their reserve-component workers.
Jan. 16 is the deadline for nominations for the 2012 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. Since its inception in 1996, the award has recognized 160 employers who provided exemplary support far beyond their basic legal requirements.
They’ve been large corporations, state and local agencies, mom-and-pop businesses and everything in between, all recognizing the important role their citizen-service member employees play in national defense, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve officials said.
President Barack Obama acknowledged employers’ contributions to this mission in declaring National Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Week when the 2011 Freedom Award recipients were honored.
“The support of employers across our country reflects the best of the American spirit -- the understanding that we are bound together to serve and protect our nation,” Obama said.
James Rehholz, national ESGR chair, said this support will remain critical in the future. “Even as our nation scales down our combat missions abroad, Guard and Reserve members and their employers remain a critical component in our national security equation,” he said. “Just as our country has heavily relied on the more than 1 million men and women of the Guard and Reserve, these service members have counted on their employers for support and encouragement.”
Rebholz urged members of the reserve components to nominate deserving employers for the Freedom Award. The ESGR website provides guidance to make it easier and faster for reservists and Guard members to make their nominations.
Winners will be announced in early summer and honored during a ceremony in Washington this fall, officials said.
Last year’s 15 Freedom Award recipients, selected from 4,049 nominations, were: 3M Co. in St. Paul, Minn.; Ameren Corp. in St. Louis; Burt County Sheriff’s Office in Tekamah, Neb.; CSX Transportation in Jacksonville, Fla.; Electrical Contractors Inc. in Omaha, Neb.; Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Mich.; Hanson Professional Services Inc., in Springfield, Ill.; Integrity Applications Inc. in Chantilly, Va.; Orange County Sheriff’s Department in Santa Ana, Calif.; Principal Financial Group in Des Moines, Iowa; Qwest Communications, since acquired by CenturyLink, Inc. in Monroe, La.; St. John’s Lutheran Church in Yankton, S.D.; State Employees’ Credit Union in Raleigh, N.C.; the Town of Gilbert, Ariz.; and Wells Fargo & Co. in San Francisco.
The support they provided ran the gamut from extending full civilian pay and benefits while the reservist or Guardsman was deployed to sending care packages, keeping up the employees’ yard work and even babysitting their children when duty called.
"They took care of my family when I was gone," Illinois Army National Guard Maj. Craig Holan said in nominating his employer, Hanson Professional Services Inc., for the 2011 Freedom Award. "My boss would check in on them. I just didn't have to worry. I wish all members of the Guard and reserves could say that about their employers."
Navy Reserve Lt. j.g. Todd Brooks said his 2011 Freedom Award winning employer, Ford Motor Co., “has made it possible for hundreds of reserve and Guard employees to serve the nation in support of not only operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, but other missions throughout the world vital to national security, global stability and humanitarian assistance."
“I salute my employer, Ameren, and its employees who truly stand behind supporting their Guard and Reserve soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen and Marines,” agreed Air Force Lt. Col. Bruno R. Stopka from the Missouri Air National Guard in nominating his employer for the 2011 Freedom Award. As the company and its staff support those who currently serve, he said, they also “continue to recognize those who have previously served our great country.”
(American Forces Press Service reporter Terri Moon Cronk contributed to this article.)