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The Freedom Award 2012 - Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve
The Department of Defense has honored the 2012 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award recipients. The Freedom Award is the highest recognition given to employers for support of their employees who also serve in the National Guard and Reserve.

News Stories

Companies Praised for Support of Guard, Reserve Employees

Fifteen companies and organizations received the coveted Secretary of Defense Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Freedom Award, honoring private and public companies, large and small, which go above and beyond what the law requires to support their deployed Guard and reserve employees. Story

Obama Proclaims Employer Support of Guard and Reserve Week

President Barack Obama said the employers of Guard members and reservists are taking care of those who serve in the nation's military by "hiring and retaining members of the Guard and Reserve, and by creating a culture of military support in the workplace," in his proclamation declaring Sept. 16 through Sept. 22 as National Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Week. Story | Proclamation

Officials Announce 2012 Top Guard, Reserve Employers

Fifteen public and private-sector employers have been chosen to receive the 2012 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. Story

About the Freedom Award

The Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award was instituted in 1996 under the auspices of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. ESGR is a Department of Defense agency established in 1972, whose mission is to develop and promote employer support for Guard and Reserve service by advocating relevant initiatives, recognizing outstanding support, increasing awareness of applicable laws, and resolving conflict between employers and service members.

Paramount to ESGR's mission is encouraging employment of Guardsmen and Reservists who bring integrity, global perspective and proven leadership to the civilian workforce. Since 1996, only 175 companies have been presented with the prestigious Freedom Award. For more information, please visit www.FreedomAward.mil.

Freedom Award Winners

Basin Electric Power Cooperative

"Basin Electric is very deserving of the Freedom Award for (its) exceptional support of its military members," Miller said. "I'm grateful to have an opportunity to show my appreciation through this recognition."
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Capt. Kimberly Miller, Army National Guard
Basin Electric Power Cooperative, headquartered in Bismarck, N.D., is a consumer-owned, not-for-profit providing power to 2.8 million consumers in nine states. The company was nominated for the Freedom Award by Capt. Kimberly Miller. Miller, a member of the Army National Guard, said that Basin Electric's support for the military, its military service employees, and patriotism is ingrained in their corporate culture — their company motto is "Keeping the Service Member Whole." Basin Electric prominently displays its military support with a 25-foot banner over their building entrance thanking military employees for their service. Basin Electric also provides additional time off before deployment to complete military training, and after returning from deployment, so service members are able to spend quality time with family. When employees deploy, Basin Electric continues regular pay raises and offers an "open door" policy for family members to raise any concerns that develop while their loved one is away. Co-workers often volunteer to provide child care, complete yard work, and shovel snow for family members. "Basin Electric is very deserving of the Freedom Award for exceptional support of its military members," Miller said. "I'm grateful to have an opportunity to show my appreciation through this recognition."

Caterpillar Inc.

"It is not uncommon for me to work 10 or 12 hour shifts every Saturday and Sunday that I am not drilling with my unit in Rock Island. Yet, no one on my team thinks twice when I tell them that I cannot work on a specific weekend, even though they are the ones who will pick up the slack when I cannot."
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Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Adam Oldfield
The Peoria, Ill.-based Caterpillar Inc. is a leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives. Lance Cpl. Adam Oldfield, Marine Corps Reserve, nominated Caterpillar for the Freedom Award. According to the nomination, Caterpillar Inc. employs more than 2,500 veterans, including more than 100 Guard and Reserve members, with nearly 50 deployed earlier this year. Caterpillar recruits military personnel through programs such as the U.S. Chamber's "Hiring Our Heroes" program and the Illinois Warriors career fair. The company also established the "Caterpillar Armed Forces Support Network" to support employees and families when called to duty. The network has approximately 350 members and does everything from assisting with recruitment and career development for veterans, to helping family members with routine home care while a loved one is deployed. When Oldfield was called to serve, the company organized a send-off event to show their support. Part of the reason Oldfield nominated the company was in appreciation of his supportive colleagues. He said, "It is not uncommon for me to work 10 or 12 hour shifts every Saturday and Sunday that I am not drilling with my unit in Rock Island. Yet, no one on my team thinks twice when I tell them that I cannot work on a specific weekend, even though they are the ones who will pick up the slack when I cannot."

Citi

"Citi has supported me for the last 20 years throughout my service in the Air National Guard, including during nine overseas deployments and annual training assignments. Citi has always gone above and beyond to support the families of its Guard and Reserve employees, providing peace of mind until each of us returns from duty. No other company I have worked with has done as much as Citi has to honor and support my military service."
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Master Sgt. Robert Moeller, Air National Guard
Citi, headquartered in New York, has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions, providing consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services. In nominating the company, Master Sgt. Robert Moeller, an Air National Guardsmen and Citi employee based in Sioux Falls, S.D., highlighted the firm's Citi Salutes initiative, which develops programs and offerings that can help veterans, active-duty service members, and their families realize their personal and professional goals. Citi Salutes provides a one-stop resource for career opportunities; money management tools; partnerships with veteran service organizations; and banking products and services tailored to the military and veteran community. Citi also plays a leadership role in Joining Forces, hiring more than 1,000 veterans since First Lady Michelle Obama launched the initiative in April 2011. Citi co-founded Veterans on Wall Street and serves on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Veterans Employment Advisory Council. "Citi has supported me for the last 20 years throughout my service in the Air National Guard, including during nine overseas deployments and annual training assignments," Moeller said. "Citi has always gone above and beyond to support the families of its Guard and Reserve employees, providing peace of mind until each of us returns from duty. No other company I have worked with has done as much as Citi has to honor and support my military service."

Crystal Springs United Methodist Church

"I felt that as I was protecting my country, my employer was protecting my family."
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Capt. John Branning, Army National Guard
Crystal Springs United Methodist Church (UMC), of Crystal Springs, Miss., is a small town church affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Capt. John Branning, a member of the Army National Guard and senior pastor, nominated the church because he said they went above and beyond by continuing to employ him while he served on active duty. Though churches are exempt from the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, federal law protects service members' jobs. The church paid Branning the difference between his normal salary and his military income while he was deployed in Iraq, and went even further in their support. The church allowed Branning's family to remain in the church-provided pastor home, covered the utilities and child care, and paid for his children's tuition so they could remain in their school. It also supported service members in Branning's unit by providing $7,500 worth of morale kits to the soldiers while in Iraq, honoring their service with mentions in service brochures and church bulletin boards, and hosting a reception upon their return. The church welcomed Branning back with open arms and the excitement of his return continues today. When asked why he nominated Crystal Springs for the award, Branning said, "I felt that as I was protecting my country, my employer was protecting my family."

Delta Air Lines

"I have been employed by Delta Air Lines for 11 of the 23 years I have served our nation in the Marine Corps, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve and there has never been a moment when I doubted that Delta's response and support would be anything less than one hundred percent."
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Lt. Col. Tom Timberlake, Air Force Reserve
Headquartered in Atlanta, Delta Air Lines employs more than 80,000 employees worldwide, operates a fleet of more than 700 aircraft, and provides service to 61 countries on six continents. Lt. Col. Tom Timberlake of the Air Force Reserve submitted the winning Freedom Award nomination for Delta. The combat pilot said Delta supported him during his overseas deployment by ensuring travel, healthcare and retirement benefits were available to him upon his return. More than 25 percent of the company's pilots are veterans or currently serving in the Guard or Reserve, and Delta has pledged to hire more veterans by 2020 as part of the 100,000 Jobs Mission. Delta also actively participates in and contributes to many military support programs, holds special events to recognize employees' military service and presents awards to employees who show exceptional support to Guard and Reserve colleagues. As a member of the Airline/Reserve Component Symposium, Delta drafted a guide and checklist for employers to use to help their military employees transition back to civilian life. Timberlake said, "I have been employed by Delta Air Lines for 11 of the 23 years I have served our nation in the Marine Corps, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve and there has never been a moment when I doubted that Delta's response and support would be anything less than one hundred percent."

Gary Jet Center

"Their support provides me with peace of mind, knowing that if I am deployed, they will always help my family."
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Master Sgt. Fred Oosterhoff, Air National Guard
Gary Jet Center of Gary, Ind. is a fixed-base operator at the Gary/Chicago International Airport providing aviation fuel services, private aircraft management and charter as well as aircraft maintenance and storage. In addition to giving hiring preference to veteran and Guard and Reserve employees, Gary Jet Center offers support to the military community through donations of jet fuel to aircraft carrying injured military members from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to their homes across the United States. Gary Jet Center President Wil Davis maintains constant contact with his military employees, encouraging them to stay involved in the National Guard and Reserve, and he also finds ways to support their families. In addition to individual welcome home celebrations, Gary Jet Center hosts a Veterans Day party where the president and senior leadership recognize all employees who have served or currently are serving. Military air crews that land at Gary International Airport are provided gratis ground transportation and pilot services. Nominator Air National Guard Master Sgt. Fred Oosterhoff said, "I nominated Gary Jet Center because of the unparalleled support that they provide during my normal Guard participation and deployments, and their overall support of our nation's military. Their support provides me with peace of mind, knowing that if I am deployed, they will always help my family."

iostudio

"iostudio supports its service members, those here and abroad, with the comfort of knowing they are valued, celebrated daily, and a part of a caring family."
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Sgt. Jason Johnson, Army National Guard
As a small, creative marketing firm with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C., iostudio specializes in advertising, content marketing, film and video and customer care. Sgt. Jason Johnson, a member of the Army National Guard, is one of the 115 iostudio employees that are current Guard or Reserve members, retired service members, or veterans. iostudio has established positions that have a military service requirement or preference. Executives at iostudio are well-versed in the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, and ensure their supervisors and employees are trained as well. When an iostudio employee leaves for duty, the firm provides a one-month pay advance so the employee and their families will not be without income during the transition to service. iostudio also comes together as a company to provide their deployed co-workers with care packages, which include standard necessities, seasonal items, fun gifts and more. "iostudio supports its service members, those here and abroad, with the comfort of knowing they are valued, celebrated daily, and a part of a caring family," Johnson said. "Keeping this in mind, this nomination process provided a platform for displaying a true appreciation for our organization's efforts and shedding light for the nation on what a truly patriotic and remarkable leadership network we have."

Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety

"The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety actively supports their Guard and Reserve employees and makes it easy for us to serve both the department and our nation."
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Master Sgt. Robert Christensen, Army Reserve
With 303 employees, the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, located in Kalamazoo, Mich., prefers to hire both veterans and current military members. In fact, veteran status elevates a potential employee in the hiring process. KDPS has a strong commitment to caring for its Guard and Reserve employees, complete with its own Family Support Group. When a deployed KDPS officer was severely wounded by a grenade exploding in his right hand, KDPS flew a contingency of officers to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., to be with the officer and support his family while they relocated to the Washington, D.C., area for his recovery. When the service member returned to work, unable to use his right hand, the department trained the officer to shoot left-handed, so he could keep the same job he had before he was deployed. Master Sgt. Robert Christensen, of the Army Reserve, nominated the employer for the Freedom Award because of the support he witnessed for his fellow military employees and for KDPS' treatment of him when he was deployed, sending care packages, staying in touch on a weekly basis, and providing a special homecoming.

L-3 Communications

"L-3 may be a large company but it is genuinely interested in the needs of its Guard and Reserve members."
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Master Sgt. Sherri Bellehumeur, Utah Air National Guard
L-3 Communications, headquartered in New York, provides defense products and services to the United States, allied governments and customers world-wide. L-3's nominator, Master Sgt. Sherri Bellehumeur is assigned to the 109th Air Control Squadron, Utah Air National Guard, and is employed by L-3 Communication Systems – West in Salt Lake City. L-3 routinely conducts Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act training for supervisors and managers and regularly attends military career fairs, including Hiring Our Heroes. L-3 CSW has an established military relations committee, which supports initiatives such as the Utah National Guard Charitable Trust and Sub-for Santa programs. Across L-3, business units coordinate, support and host events for military and veterans groups to promote awareness for the employment and community needs of military personnel, and in celebration of their service. Bellehumeur noted in her nomination that, although she had a business degree, L-3 hired her as an engineer because of her extensive military technical experience even though she lacked the required technical degree for the position. "In my own experience, my managers and HR specialists showed real understanding and flexibility concerning schedule and pay issues related to my Guard duty. I can honestly say that L-3 goes above and beyond for its military employees," Bellehumeur said.

Nyemaster Goode, P.C.

"Nyemaster Goode has proven in its response that people and businesses can be even more extraordinary than the circumstances that move them."
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Maj. Kristina Stanger, Army National Guard
Nyemaster Goode, headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, is Iowa's largest law firm, employing approximately 160 people. Maj. Kristina Stanger, of the Army National Guard, nominated the firm because of their continued support for her and her husband Staff Sgt. Doug Stanger. To stay on par with her peers and remain competitive for advancement, Nyemaster Goode created a "special hours" category that allowed Stanger to record her time spent on Guard duty as recordable hours at the firm. When Stanger's husband was deployed, Nyemaster Goode developed alternate work hours that supported her child care needs and sponsored a scholarship for the daughter of one of Stanger's fallen comrades. They are committed to their military employees and the fathers, mothers, siblings and dependents working for them who have loved ones who serve. In 2011, Nyemaster Goode extended its support by providing Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act training to other area businesses. When asked why she nominated Nyemaster Goode for the Freedom Award, Stanger remarked, "When we are called to extraordinary circumstances we cannot anticipate how the people in our lives will respond to the challenges our circumstances present to them. Nyemaster Goode has proven in its response that people and businesses can be even more extraordinary than the circumstances that move them. Their unwavering support for our dual military family's service and our military community has been amazing and we are eternally grateful."

Port of Seattle

"I chose to nominate the Port because of its outstanding support and commitment to veterans, Guardsmen and Reservists."
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Capt. Gary Buchanan, Navy Reserve
The Port of Seattle employs 1,650 people, owns and operates Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, four major cargo handling terminals, four public marinas, manages four thousand acres of real estate assets, and contributes to the construction of road and rail infrastructure. About 20 percent of Port employees have military experience, and the Port is actively working to employ more by attending hiring events and participating in additional military transition programs. The Port of Seattle established a Veterans Fellowship Program to provide short-term employment to individuals transitioning from active duty, helping them identify transferable skills, expose them to a new work environment and provide them with resume writing assistance. Managers and supervisors are schooled with one-on-one Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act training before Guard or Reserve mobilizations, and encouraged to maintain open communication with those deployed. The Port of Seattle recognizes and honors service members via newsletter stories of deployed service members, recognition at Port Commission Meetings and other public events. "I chose to nominate the Port because of its outstanding support and commitment to veterans, Guardsmen and Reservists," said Capt. Gary Buchanan, of the Navy Reserve. "Our CEO, Tay Yoshitani, is not only a corporate champion in the hiring of veterans within the Port of Seattle, but he also promotes the business case for all employers, regionally and nationally, to hire veterans and service members."

Siemens Corp.

"While working at Siemens, you can take comfort in knowing your employer is as patriotic as the Citizen-Soldiers they employ."
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Capt. John Johnson, Army Reservist
Siemens has more than 60,000 employees in the United States and provides solutions for more affordable and efficient healthcare, the growing demands of cities and the nation's infrastructure needs, cleaner sources of energy production and industrial productivity. Capt. John Johnson, an Army Reservist with Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics in Glasgow, Del., nominated Siemens for the Freedom Award. In his nomination, Johnson highlighted the company's new online Veteran's Network, used to share job information and advice with more than 400 veterans and service members. In 2011, Johnson's reserve unit was extremely active and he served a total of 58 military days. He described Siemens as "extremely understanding" of the demanding schedule and his entire military service career. Johnson also said when Siemens employees in the Guard and Reserve Service deploy, their supervisors maintain contact with them through emails, sending care packages, and providing family assistance. Siemens has partnered with the Army to allow soldiers to be stationed at Siemens facilities for training. Through their participation in the White House's Joining Forces initiative, Siemens originally pledged to reserve 10 percent of open positions for veterans, exceeded the goal in three months and hired over 630 veterans last year. In January, Siemens announced plans to hire an additional 300 veterans in 2012. "Siemens is a company that goes beyond the normal expectations of an employer," Johnson said.

Tennessee Valley Authority

"TVA strives to provide exceptional support to the military and their employees in the military."
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Capt. Charles Wingo, Army National Guard
Based in Knoxville, Tenn., Tennessee Valley Authority provides electricity to approximately nine million people in parts of seven southeastern states. Capt. Charles Wingo of the Army National Guard nominated TVA for the Freedom Award because of TVA's commitment to hire Guardsmen, Reservists, veterans, spouses of disabled veterans, and widows and widowers of those killed on active duty. They also actively participate in military job fairs and promote job opportunities for those in the military community. TVA recognizes their employees on military leave by offering eligibility for "military service" bonuses. When an employee returns home from being on active duty, TVA allows them to take five days of administrative leave. TVA shows their support for deployed employees by remaining in contact via email and letters, evidenced by the 4,000 care packages they have shipped overseas. TVA heartily embraces the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act by training all first-line supervisors on the law, posting USERRA posters on prominent bulletin boards, and including USERRA information in newsletters and corporate communications. They also provide volunteers to help brief managers and supervisors on the details of the law. When asked why he nominated Tennessee Valley Authority, Wingo said, "TVA strives to provide exceptional support to the military and their employees in the military."

Uniform Color Company

"Thanks to Uniform Color's support for my family at home, I was able to focus on the mission abroad."
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Senior Chief Petty Officer James Greenwell, Navy Reserve
Uniform Color Company, of Holland, Mich., produces and provides custom color concentrates for the thermoplastics industry. Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer James Greenwell, a machinist's mate, nominated the employer because of their overwhelming support for him and his family. UCC leaders encouraged Greenwell to re-enlist in the Navy Reserve after he started working there. When he was nominated as Sailor of the Year, UCC purchased new service dress whites to ensure he made the most professional impression. The company provided overwhelming support to Greenwell and his family during the entire deployment process, flying his sister-in-law in to babysit for his children when needed, and providing special treats for the family including a membership to an aquatic park for the children and cooking classes for his wife. The company also arranged free flights for his family to visit their grandparents for additional support during Greenwell's deployment. Upon hearing the protective eyeglasses issued to Greenwell's unit were uncomfortable and difficult to use in desert conditions, UCC raised funds and provided state of the art eye protection for all the unit members, including those requiring prescription glasses. "Thanks to Uniform Color's support for my family at home, I was able to focus on the mission abroad. Knowing they were going to take care of my family made it possible to leave for my mission; and the support they provided to my sailors made it possible to succeed in my mission. They are a role model for employers everywhere; what honest support for our Guardsmen and Reservists looks like," Greenwell said.

Verizon Wireless

"I really feel that what Verizon Wireless has done for me has been exceptional. I hope that in nominating Verizon Wireless, I am giving back to the company what they have given to me."
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Lt. Col. John Shaw, Army Reserve
Verizon Wireless, headquartered in Basking Ridge, N.J., employs 78,000 people nationwide. Lt. Col. John Shaw, a member of the Army Reserve, nominated the company for the support military employees receive while deployed and Verizon Wireless' commitment to hire more Guardsmen, Reservists and veterans. Verizon Wireless has employees active in Verizon's Veteran's Advisory Board to provide senior management assistance, guidance and development ideas for military and veteran employees. Those transitioning from military service to civilian life receive assistance identifying positions in Verizon where they can apply their military skills. In 2011, the company hired more than 300 veterans, increasing the total number of veterans working for Verizon Wireless to more than 4,000. Company leaders send care packages filled with electronic tablets, phone cards and favorite snacks to deployed employees. Shaw reported that when his colleagues found his wife and two of his children sick while he was away, they set up a care plan that included delivering groceries and preparing meals. When asked why he nominated Verizon Wireless, Shaw said, "I've been through three mobilizations since 2005 and each time Verizon Wireless has allowed me to hand off my responsibilities."

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