Senior Department of Defense leaders today presented British Nuclear Fuels Limited Inc. (BNFL), a Virginia-based nuclear waste processing and cleanup company, the National Employer Support Freedom Award for outstanding support as an employer of members of the National Guard and Reserve in a Pentagon ceremony.
Dr. Henderson P. Graham, chair of the State of Virginia Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Committee accepted the award accepted the award. Making the presentations were Rudy de Leon, under secretary of defense for Personnel and Readiness; Charles L. Cragin, principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, and Thomas C. Irwin, chair, National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.
"Employer support is vital for reservists," de Leon said. "We cannot continue to rely on them if we can't count on their employers. These recipients have set an example for others to follow and have taken great pains to ease the burden for their employees who serve in uniform. They demonstrate that employers are really part of the Total Force."
BNFL was cited because of its tradition of exceeding federal and state laws that govern the manner in which companies are supposed to support their employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve. This support, provided by BNFL, includes the continuation of company salary while employees are on active military duty; establishing and staying in contact with family members while the reservist/employee serves on tours of 30 days or greater; and continuing all company benefits, to include cost-of-living adjustments, while they are performing active duty. BNFL also was praised for actively recruiting reservists and encouraging them to continue their part-time military careers.
In the case of one employee, Lawrence M. Brede, an Army Reserve captain who last year received the Army's prestigious Gen. Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award, BNFL bestowed separate honors and held a catered reception for him the night he accepted the military award.
"The bottom line is that my civilian employer, BNFL Inc., really rolled out the red carpet for my family and guests," said Brede. "The treatment that they gave me was by far above and beyond what any civilian employer could be expected to do. Not only do they support my participation in the Army Reserve program, but also they separately recognized me for an Army award."
The Freedom award is sponsored by the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, or NCESGR, a Department of Defense organization that is headquarters to 54 all-volunteer committees nationwide. Cragin noted that these efforts are needed now more than ever before.
"The 1.4 million men and women in the Reserve and National Guard could never serve this nation in the outstanding manner in which they do without the support of their employers," said Cragin. "For this reason, it is tremendously important that we recognize the contributions of employers, especially those who go above and beyond the requirements of the law."
More than 9,400 employers were nominated for recognition this year by their employee-reservists. Local committees for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, or ESGR, nominated 22 of these employers for consideration for the Defense Department's highest employer support award.
A selection board of ESGR committee members reviewed the nominations and chose five finalists, representing each of the United States' five regional areas. A grassroots committee of drilling National Guard and Reserve members then reviewed the finalists and selected the national winner.
Among those recognized as regional winners were Kaiser Permanente Northwest, a health maintenance organization (HMO) based in Portland, Ore.; Hitchiner Manufacturing Inc., a producer of metal castings for industry, based in Milford, N.H.; the State of Louisiana; and, General Fire and Safety Equipment Company Inc., a sales and service company for fire extinguishers and fire alarm systems, based in Des Moines, Iowa.
"These recipients represent different segments of our society, yet they are very much alike," said de Leon. "First and foremost, they are all world class patriots and, second, they have gone far above and beyond the requirements of the law 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 members of the National Guard or Reserve.
Hitchiner Manufacturing Company Inc. is the winner for the Northeast Region. With more than 1,200 employees at its three New Hampshire plants, and with additional operations in Missouri and Mexico, the company employs 22 members of the National Guard and Reserve. Hitchiner was cited for actively recruiting reservists for almost 50 years. Representing the company at the ceremony were John H. Morison III, president and CEO, and Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Wayne Gower.
General Fire and Safety Equipment Co., the winner for the North Central Region, is a family-owned business with 12 employees, three of whom are members of the Iowa National Guard. The company encourages military service among its employees by continuing salary and benefits while they are on active duty and ensuring that the employee's family members are cared for while active duty service continues. Representing General Fire and Safety were the owners, Norma and Patrick McCann, and Army National Guard 1st Lt. Vaughn McIlvaine.
The West Region winner, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, was cited for its outstanding support to employee/reservists starting with the Persian Gulf War. More than 60 of Kaiser's physicians and nurses served on active duty during the campaign. Many have served in subsequent military operations and exercises including Bosnia, Kosovo and Latin America. Kaiser was also praised for its generosity beyond its employees by donating surplus medications and equipment to hurricane relief efforts in Honduras and other Central American countries. Accepting the award for Kaiser was Leslie Carveth, hospital administrative supervisor, herself an Army Reserve lieutenant colonel who was called up and served in operation DESERT STORM.
The winner for the South Central Region is the state government of Louisiana, with hundreds of its 85,000 employees serving in the Reserve and National Guard. In 1991, the state legislature passed the Louisiana Military Service Relief Act, which improved upon the benefits to Reserve personnel provided by federal legislation. The act provides for such benefits as continuation of professional licenses, academic protections for students, and delays in tax and other statutory filings, when state citizens are called to active military duty. The governor actively encourages Reserve support and cooperation through his Military Advisory Commission, which has representation from every active and Reserve command in the state. State representative Dianne Winston and Army Reserve Col. Tom Fierke accepted the award on behalf of Louisiana.
NCESGR was chartered in 1972 when the U.S. Armed Forces were transitioning to an all-volunteer force. The committee was designed to minimize conflicts between part-time military duties and full-time civilian career responsibilities. Today more than half of the nation's military strength is in the National Guard and Reserve.
For more information, please call Lt. Col. Terry Jones at (703) 695-3620, Lt. Col. Mike Edrington at (703) 696-1381 or Master Sgt. Bob Krenke at (703) 696-3919.