Employers of National Guard and Reserve members received the Defense Department's highest employer support award, the National Employer Support Freedom Award, today during a ceremony conducted by senior Department of Defense leaders.
Midwest Express Airlines was selected as the national winner from nominations submitted by more than 9,400 Reserve component members who nominated their civilian employers for recognition this year. Local Employer Support of the National Guard and Reserve (ESGR) committees further nominated 23 of these employers for consideration.
A selection board of ESGR Committee members reviewed the nominations and chose five finalists, representing each of the five ESGR regions of the United States. A grassroots committee of National Guard and Reserve members then reviewed the finalists and selected the national winner.
David Reeve, Midwest Express senior vice president, Operations, accepted the award, presented by Charles L. Cragin, principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs; Thomas C. Irwin, ESGR chair, and Bryan E. Sharratt, ESGR executive director.
"The 1.3 million men and women in the National Guard and Reserve could never serve this nation in the outstanding manner in which they do without the support of their employers," said Cragin. "It is tremendously important that we recognize the contributions of employers, especially those who go above and beyond the requirements of the law."
The airline was cited because, beyond taking care of their passengers, they are extremely supportive of their National Guard and Reserve employees. With a workforce of some 3,000, the company pays the difference between civilian and military pay for those who are deployed. Midwest Express also extends other benefits like medical, dental, life insurance, vacation pay and profit sharing to deployed military members, and continues to make 401(K) contributions.
One Midwest Express employee who participated in Operation Allied Force was remembered personally by his coworkers as he received an ongoing flow of e-mails, letters and packages and the famous Midwest Express chocolate chip cookies across the Atlantic. People at home teamed up to support his wife and family. Those at Midwest Express learned that as it was good for the reservist and his family, it also was a unifying experience for them.
Retired Lt. Col. Bruce Swezey, an Air National Guard member who nominated Midwest, also attended the award presentation.
The Employer Support Freedom Award is sponsored by the Secretary of Defense on behalf of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense organization with 54 committees throughout the nation and membership of more than 4,500 volunteers.
Among those recognized as regional winners are American Express, a global travel, financial and network services provider, with a service center in Salt Lake City; Framatome Connectors USA Inc., a worldwide supplier of electronic and electrical connectors and interconnection systems based in Manchester, N.H.; Midwest Express Airlines, a national airline headquartered in Oak Creek, Wis.; Intel Corp., a semiconductor manufacturer based in Rio Rancho, N.M.; and Technology Concepts and Design, Inc., a professional services company specializing in the development and application of computer technology, in Manassas, Va.
"These recipients represent different segments of our society, yet they are very much alike," said Irwin. "First and foremost, they are all world class patriots and, second, they have gone far above and beyond to encourage their employees to perform military service. We owe them our deepest gratitude."
Receiving the awards with the company representatives were employees who are National Guard or Reserve members and nominated their employers for recognition. In his remarks, Cragin thanked them for their dedication.
"To our Reserve component members, we recognize that you are balancing many commitments," he said. But we also recognize that your part-time service represents a full-time commitment to your country."
American Express, the Western Region winner, has more than 88,000 employees globally and more than 2,000 at its service center in Salt Lake City. During the past three years, American Express has received numerous awards from ESGR, as they employ Reserve component members from all services, and have been cited for their outstanding support of the National Guard and Reserve.
American Express gives military employees the latitude to take time off to perform extra duty that can further their careers, continues their benefits while they are away from the workplace, and publicly acknowledges and endorses the contributions of their employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve.
Managers and supervisors at all levels of the organization support the company's personnel policies affecting Reserve component participation. Representing the company at the ceremony were Dorothy Anderson, manager of public affairs, and Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Terri-Lynn Collins who works at the American Express Service Center.
Framatome Connectors USA Inc., who took honors for the North East Region, has five of its nearly 800 employees that serve in the National Guard and Reserve. The company has a comprehensive employee benefits package that demonstrates support for its National Guard and Reserve workers.
Their compensation package includes a pay differential between civilian and military salaries. The company retains employees' positions while away on active duty while providing medical, dental and life insurance coverage and makes 401(K) contributions.
One of their military-friendly benefits allows its Reserve and National Guard members to obtain up to a $5,000 no-interest loan to help bridge the gap during a transition from civilian to military pay.
Representing Framatome Connectors were John Burns, senior vice president and general manager for the Electrical Group, and Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Richard Robicheau.
The South East Region winner, Technology Concepts and Design Inc. (TCDI), was recognized for its personnel policies that encourage participation in the National Guard and Reserve, such as maintaining pay without reduction during two weeks of annual training. The company made its private equipment and engineers available at no cost to the Air Force to support an operation.
TCDI gives military members the flexibility to support critical missions. Also, the company hires military members leaving active duty service. In one case, the company held the position for which a military member had been hired when he was not allowed to leave active-duty service as early as he expected.
TCDI actively recruits members of the National Guard and Reserve to join its staff of 35. Accepting the award for TCDI were Jerry W. Eatherly, senior vice president for Technical Direction and Development, and Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. Salvador Batlle.
The winner for the South Central Region, Intel Corp., employs more than 70,000 worldwide and maintains personnel policies that extend beyond the requirements of federal labor laws affecting military service. Intel pays the difference between civilian and military pay during a two-week block of annual training.
Along with monthly drills, the annual training leave remains separate from accumulated personal or vacation time. The company provides military leave of absence for up to 30 working days during a rolling 12-month period. Also, the other company benefits remain intact when the military member is away from the workplace.
During peacekeeping missions to Southwest Asia, Intel employees hosted going away and welcome home parties for deploying military members and their families. Accepting the award were David Baglee, plant manager for Fab/Sort Manufacturing, and Army National Guard Capt. Mark Miera.
ESGR was chartered by the President in 1972 when the U.S. Armed Forces were transitioning to an all-volunteer force. The agency works to minimize conflicts between part-time military duties and full-time civilian career responsibilities. Today half of the nation's military strength is in the National Guard and Reserve.
For more information, please call Col. Terry Jones at (703) 695-3620, Maj. Debra Stewart at (703) 696-1381 or Master Sgt. Bob Krenke at (703) 696-3919, or visit the ESGR our web site at http://www.esgr.org .