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2017 Freedom Award Recipients

Accordia Urgent Care & Family Practice

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“John Welch epitomizes the true definition of [Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve]. Not only does he employ men and women of the Guard and Reserve armed forces, he cares deeply for them and their families.” - Master Sgt. Young Daniel Chambers, Air Force Reserve

Accordia Urgent Care is a small business located in rural south central Georgia providing urgent medical care as well as family practice medicine. It provides full pay and benefits to service members for periods of military service up to 12 months. Service members receive free medical screenings and medical services as needed. Over the past few years, the company hired at least four new Reserve and National Guard service members. The owner, John Welch, and his wife, Lanie, have both been paramount in supporting veterans, the nominator’s unit, and surrounding communities. Welch donated a TV to be raffled to help raise money for the nominator’s unit. He also hired a veteran who was going through challenging times and experiencing difficult financial burdens. He paid for a service member and her five children to stay in lodging for two months when she didn't have a home. National Guard and Reserve employees are recognized through welcome-home parties, company newsletters, Chamber of Commerce events, during employer luncheons, quarterly meetings, and the company annual banquet. Accordia Urgent Care checks on military families via phone calls, allows them to come to the clinic free of charge, and sends them care packages. It sponsored a Veterans Day luncheon for about 300 active duty, National Guard, Reserve and retired service members. It donates to multiple military charities, veterans’ organizations, and offers veterans no co-pays on certain days, gives free medical services and health screenings to hundreds of veterans.

Boston Scientific

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“On top of the tremendous support Boston Scientific has given to my family and me during my absences, each time I returned to my same job and received help to quickly reintegrate into the company.” - Col. Lyle Shidla, Air National Guard

Boston Scientific Corporation is a worldwide developer, manufacturer and marketer of medical devices. It provides outstanding support for Reserve component personnel. This includes familiarization with the BSC military leave policy outlining benefits. All divisions provide service members with sendoffs when they deploy and celebrations upon their return. The CEO also sends BSC-wide emails acknowledging veterans and military support on holidays such as Veterans Day. Before a recent deployment, the nominator was presented with a framed letter thanking him for his service that was signed by all executive council members, along with a handwritten note from CEO Mike Mahoney. Boston Scientific Corporation significantly exceeds what USERRA requires and what an individual could reasonable expect from an employer, including full salary for first thirty days of military leave and then paid differential pay for remainder of deployment for up to five years of cumulative deployment time. After the nominator was gone about 4 months on deployment he received an email from his supervisor with the subject line “Where’s Lyle?” When he opened it up, it was a series of pictures where the supervisors and co-workers had taken a full-sized cardboard cutout of the nominator, in uniform, to familiar places around the office buildings and around town. BSC has established the Veterans and Employees Together in Service Employee Resource Group. One of its notable activities is connecting with Veterans Airlift Command, which provides air transportation for veterans who physically cannot fly on regular commercial aircraft or cannot afford the cost of travel.

Cargill, Inc.

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“I feel honored to be a part of an organization [that] respects and supports those of us serving in the armed forces.” - Lt. Col. Traci Earls, Army National Guard

Cargill is a unique and extremely diverse 151-year-old company operating in 67 countries and employing more than 155,000 employees, 45,000 of which are located in the U.S. The company’s purpose is to “be the leader in nourishing the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way.” Its unwavering support of the nominator is typical of its support of National Guard and Reserve troops serving worldwide. In the past three years, Cargill has provided the nominator full pay and benefits totalling more than three times USERRA requirements, has repeatedly paid airfare to support her travel between her Wisconsin Cargill office and her Kansas National Guard duty station, and has paid airfare for her to visit her two adult military children when they themselves were deployed. Cargill’s guiding principles align with military values creating an environment that benefits both Cargill and Reserve component members. Its senior leadership has built a culture of military support from top to bottom for the National Guard, Reserve, veterans and their families. It goes above and beyond statutory requirements by providing full pay every month for time away from the job site to travel to military duty stations in other states. The material investment of time, resources and money from the company over many years is exceptional. They are leaders in providing end-to-end support and encouragement to Reservists, National Guardsmen and veterans at their corporate headquarters and throughout their 750 locations in the United States.

Comcast NBC Universal

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“I had been a Comcast employee for just over 13 months, eight of which I was away serving on active duty. My integration back into the company was seamless, allowing me to hit the ground running and continue where I had left off.” - Maj. David Gaulin, Air National Guard

Comcast NBCUniversal makes it easy for its employees to continue to serve in the National Guard and Reserve. Its vast, comprehensive array of corporate policies and programs, designed specifically for those serving in uniform, ensure Reserve component service members and their families are taken care of while on the job and when deployed. From three years pay differential to a continuance of benefits and vacation time (when deployed), their efforts eliminate the complexity and stress of leaving and returning to the payroll system. Service members receive full pay for up to 15 days a year while away on military duty. Comcast NBCUniversal provides pay differential to make up the difference between Comcast salaries and military base pay for up to three years when a service member is activated or deployed. The company provides employees whose spouses are relocated due to military necessity with relocation assistance including: Preferential hiring at Comcast NBCUniversal locations near their new home; Career coaching and job-search assistance for locations outside the company’s footprint. Comcast has a goal of employing more than 10,000 National Guardsmen, reservists and veterans. In 2015 they hired more than 2,280 service members, 37 percent more than in 2014, and reached about 74 percent of their goal. While support and interaction has occurred for some time via Comcast's Veteran's Network Employee Resource Group, the company has formalized National Guard/Reserve employee support with the establishment of the Military Concierge Service. This service assists service members with issues such as military leave; benefits; and support to families before, during, and following long-term activation and deployments.

CSI Aviation

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“CSI has always been 100 percent supportive of all employees’ military obligations and has provided any family readiness support needed during times of need.” - Maj. Thomas Dunn, Army National Guard

CSI Aviation has more than 37 years of experience in global aviation services and contract management. The company provides comprehensive aviation solutions to corporations, government agencies, and individuals. CSI Aviation also provides a tight-knit family atmosphere that fosters an environment where service members are celebrated for their military accomplishments. CSI Aviation takes pride in recognizing military members for their stellar service during deployments and training missions through military award ceremonies and public press releases. CSI integrates the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve mission and Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 law into standards and policies, which allots its CEO great success for his organization. The company generously provides employees annual leave based on their number of years with the company; military leave, in addition to annual leave -- 15 paid working days of military leave for required periods of active duty, such as annual training duty; and an additional period of up to 2 weeks. Professional military education courses may be approved by the company, and unpaid military leave for required periods of active duty or drills in excess of the authorized periods may be approved by the company’s Professional Education Assistance Program. A scholarship program is available to dependents of all full-time employees. Eligibility is 5 years of employment and the child must have a 2.5 or better GPA. It is available for use in college and grades 6-12. Veterans/service members are given a slight preference over otherwise identical applicants who lack military service.

Hensel Phelps Construction Company

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“Hensel Phelps is one of the best supporters of military men and women in the private sector. From the top of the chain to the very bottom they have done their part to create programs, incentives and policies to allow [service] members [an] easy transition between their civilian and military life.” - 2nd Lt. Kyle Dougherty, Army Reserve

From planning and design, to construction, and facility management, Hensel Phelps works to solve clients’ challenges from start to finish. Its National Guard and Reserve employees deployed around the world have more than once reported that their battle buddies have said: “I wish my civilian employer treated me as well as yours!” Hensel Phelps pays the difference between civilian and military pay, regardless how long the duty lasts. Healthcare, insurance, profit sharing and retirement benefits are uninterrupted, no matter the length of service: The retirement account contributes 15 percent of employee’s gross salary, requiring no employee pay-in. When the nominator announced he had orders to report to Basic Officer Leadership Course, the company paid his January rent and full salary for a week to travel and settle in at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Another service member living in Virginia was cross-leveled into a unit in California. The company gave him paid time off on Fridays before drill weekends so he could fly cross-country to his drill. Another employee was wounded in combat in Iraq. Unfortunately, the PTSD he battled manifested itself in extreme anxiety attacks when driving in heavy traffic -- dreadful for someone with a 120-mile round-trip commute. This veteran had to twice be rescued by ambulance from southern California freeways. His treatment required appointments every afternoon; thanks to the understanding of his supervisor and the compassion of his co-workers, his schedule was adjusted and his workload redistributed to help him function much more effectively and with less stress.

Howard County Fire & Rescue

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“With their assistance, I persevered to [become] a Coast Guard officer. Both HCFRS and Chief [John S.] Butler go above and beyond the minimum federal requirements to support guardsmen, reservists, and veterans.” - Ensign Gamaliel Baer, United States Coast Guard Reserve

Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services is a combination system of career and volunteer providers operating from 12 county-wide fire stations. Led by a Marine Corps veteran, the support, respect and recognition for service members, veterans and their families greatly exceeds that found in many public sector agencies. The chief of the department purchased a red, white and blue fire truck and paramedic unit that are emblazoned with the mottos “We support our troops” and “We support our veterans.” The high number of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve awards presented to HCDFRS speaks volumes to the positive attributes displayed by this public sector agency to their military employees. The Howard County executive and chief administrator and senior leaders participated in a recent Patriot Award presentation to recognize military employees The chief of the department personally mentored the nominator, encouraging him to pursue his goal to become a Coast Guard Reserve officer, despite the obvious impact on the duty schedule for the department because of this voluntary military training requirement. Department personnel include family members in fire station dinners and perform chores normally done by the deployed spouse to maintain a sense of normalcy for families. HCDFRS is a strong advocate for hiring service members to work within their ranks. The department recognizes the unique skillset of those who train and serve with the military and the value these skills bring to protecting the citizens and visitors in Howard County in the emergency response field.

Indianapolis Fire Department

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“The Indianapolis Fire Department has taken the time to understand the complexity and unique stressors of 24-hour shift work combined with today's military [operational] tempo. They seek out every opportunity to make departmental processes and policies as military-friendly as possible.” - Master Sgt. Christopher Bauchle, Air Force Reserve

Serving both residents and visitors to the city of Indianapolis has been the primary mission for the Indianapolis Fire Department for more than 158 years. IFD is actively involved in the lives of the 24 service members it currently employs. This includes sending care packages, keeping in contact with family members during their loved ones' absences and helping them with benefit information; to maintaining a network of skilled laborers who aid the service member’s family during deployments. As a public safety organization, IFD understands the tremendous demands that are placed on their employees and families. They recognize that service members carry the burden two-fold. IFD is dedicated to providing support to these employees, which they publically decreed in July 2016 at a statement of support signing alongside Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett. IFD recruits Indiana National Guardsmen and reservists through one-on-one outreach, the public information officer’s office, social media outlets and the IFD Recruitment Office. They attend military hiring events such as the Operation: Hire a Hoosier Vet job fair and support the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011. IFD Captain and Indiana National Guardsman Sergeant Gary Henry was killed by a roadside bomb on Aug. 4, 2008, while on patrol near Camp Al Rustamiyah in Iraq. A plaque was installed on the Professional Firefighters Union Hall building and he is remembered every October as part of the fallen firefighter service, which is attended each year by members of his family.

Johnson & Johnson

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“Leaving the family behind is never easy, but it’s much easier to endure a deployment when you know that your family has a good support system at home willing to help if needed. All drilling reservists should be lucky enough to work for a company as supportive as Johnson & Johnson has been for me.” - Tech. Sgt. Christopher Dilley, Air National Guard

Johnson & Johnson believes their first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses, and patients, to mothers and fathers, and all others who use their products and services. In 2016, Johnson & Johnson created a new award called the “Enduring Service Award,” which is awarded to National Guard and Reserve personnel who recently returned from deployment. Their service is announced through company-wide newsletters. Johnson & Johnson maintains a military leave policy that covers all compensation-related items for activations and military service for any reason -- including all types of training and deployments and Johnson & Johnson continues benefits during activations for any reason -- such as training or deployments. This ensures that veterans, after having served, have adequate time to return to civilian life before returning to work. Johnson & Johnson actively recruits military veterans and National Guard and Reserve personnel. Johnson & Johnson is a key partner of the Travis Manion Foundation and partners with Military MOJO to pipeline transition military and veteran talent. Johnson & Johnson also has a policy that allows its companies to hire military veterans transitioning off of active duty to over hire positions fill projected losses -- retirements or relocations -- giving up to a one-year transition period to service members. Johnson & Johnson actively provided emotional and social support to deployed member’s families. It demonstrated that they understood that the military spouse and military family also make significant sacrifices and contributions to our country. Specifically, by providing care packages to the deployed employee as well as personal contact with the families.

Mesa Natural Gas Solutions

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“Mesa’s flexibility and support of my military duties is unparalleled. I have worked for military-friendly companies in the past and none have shown the support and dedication to service members that Mesa does.” - Sgt. Brandon Woodall, Army National Guard

Mesa Natural Gas Solutions is a supplier of gas and oil field equipment and tools for the energy industry. Founded by veterans and Wyoming National Guard and Reserve personnel. Mesa has developed outstanding company military leave policies. All employed service member employees receive full pay while away for military training and duties. Flexible scheduling allows for a “no-notice requirement” for military duty. Mesa provides full medical, dental and vision insurance coverage, and accrued vacation and sick leave during a deployment, as well as additional time off to take care of family household issues before or after a deployment. Mesa sent gifts to 100 deployed Wyoming service members this past holiday season; hundreds of letters from local school children, t-shirts, hats, gloves and homemade jerky. Mesa Solutions donated $4,000 to local Army National Guard family readiness groups for programs to help service members who are experiencing financial distress and to purchase flowers for special occasions. Mesa proudly donated an Alpha-Stem AID machine and accessories valued at $625 to the Casper Vet Center. The device is used in the treatment of symptoms related to anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Mesa hired the wife of a National Guardsman who became the lead for the local family readiness group and who assisted deployed families by replacing and installing a new water heater at no cost to the family and arranging assistance at bath time, bedtime and as-needed to lift a disabled child to and from their wheel chair while the spouse recovered from an injury.

Office of the District Attorney 18th Judicial District

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“They excel because they are well-trained on our exceptional military leave policies by the human resources director. All supervisors are well-versed in all areas of employment law, including [the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994].” - Maj. John Kellner, Marine Corps Reserve

Colorado’s 18th Judicial District has been a solid supporter of National Guard, Reserve and active duty service members and veterans. The district attorney, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, has established a culture promoting internal, external and visible policies, procedures and practices unparalleled in their success. The district provides National Guard and Reserve service members 100 percent of their civilian salary in addition to their military pay for at least the first 15 training days per year. The district also continues to pay the employer’s portion of the entire health care benefits package, matches their employees’ 401K contributions up to 8 percent, and continues awarding paid time off at the same accrual rate. The district’s team provides physical, emotional and social support to National Guard and Reserve service members and their families. The DA advocated 18th Judicial District’s implementation of the second Veteran’s Treatment Court in the state. If a military veteran who is diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder runs afoul of the law, they may be entered into a unique judicial process. The staff looks after families of deployed employees. The district’s human resources director maintained regular contact with the wife of a soldier while the service member attended basic training; ensuring she and the children were in need of nothing and that the family was provided the latest news about office events, included in office picnics and socials and received help with child care, odd jobs around the home and opportunities to be around adults.

Renown Health

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“The 152nd Medical Group is geographically separated from other military medical facilities. Renown Health’s willingness to allow our medics to train in their facility has significantly improved the Nevada Air National Guard’s ability to provide mission-ready airman.” - Senior Master Sgt. Jason Farnsworth, Air National Guard

Renown Health is the largest locally owned not-for-profit healthcare network in northern Nevada and is one of its largest employers. It is a tremendous supporter of the National Guard and Reserve, as is demonstrated by the more than 100 National Guardsmen, reservists and veterans on staff and the organization's numerous Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve awards. Since 2008, it has supported 35 Title 10 deployments by its employees: the human resources office takes care of all necessary paperwork and issues prior to the deployment; departments maintain contact with deployed employees and their families. It recognizes National Guard and Reserve employees in publication “Inside Renown.” Nevada Air National Guard Capt. Jennifer James, a nurse, was recognized when she was honored as one of Northern Nevada’s Women of Achievement. The organization provides employees with 15 days of military leave and also allows them to elect to use their accrued leave during military service. Renown has partnered with the Army’s Partnership for Youth Success Program to provide those who serve our country an opportunity to prepare for their futures. An initiative by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval provides employers the skills necessary to translate military service to civilian work experience, easing the transition for veterans seeking employment. In March 2013, seven Marines were killed in an explosion during a Marine Corps training exercise in western Nevada and eight others were injured. These Marines were brought to Renown for their care and recovery. The Nevada state adjutant general, Air Force Brig. Gen. William Burks, supported the Marines and their families with the assistance of the staff at Renown Health.

Salt River Project

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“Salt River Project not only provides financial support when I’m participating in weekend drills, annual training and extended training courses, but they also provide stability and security in knowing my job is protected while I am serving my country.” - Capt. Adam Douglas, Army National Guard

The Salt River Project is the umbrella name for two separate entities: the Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District, an agency of the state of that serves as an electrical utility for the Phoenix metropolitan area, and the Salt River Valley Water Users' Association. SRP pays full pay and benefits for service members, up to a rolling two years that is not offset by military pay. SRP National Guard and Reserve employees continue to accrue vacation and sick leave for up to two years during deployment or military service. SRP partnered with the Arizona Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve to establish a military to civilian equivalent job map to recruit and hire National Guardsmen, reservists and veterans into their workforce. In addition, SRP staff has received training to assist SRP managers in recruiting, hiring and managing National Guard, Reserve and veteran employees. The CEO of SRP conducts a special dinner night for the spouses of all deployed SRP employees to recognize their sacrifices and service. He personally reminds families SRP will help with tasks such as lawn work, painting and auto repairs, if necessary. The CEO of SRP personally calls deployed employees to check on their well-being, to see if they or their families need any assistance, and to assure them their jobs are secure. SRP regularly attends all Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve and other military hiring events and job fairs in support of their National Guard, Reserve and veteran hiring initiatives. Additionally, SRP built a special website just for military applicants using the military to civilian equivalent job map.

Andeavor (Formerly Tesoro)

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“I am truly happy knowing that Tesoro’s sacrifice for their service member employees has been recognized at the national level. They have earned it.” - Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Ocampo, Army Reserve

Tesoro Corporation, a Fortune 100 company, is an independent refiner and marketer of petroleum products. Service members tell a tale of amazing support spanning 15 years/3 deployments/36+ months overseas. When the nominator deployed, Tesoro’s Auburn, Washington, office organized and donated laptops to Kosovo schools his civil affairs unit was assisting. Many examples of Tesoro support from Texas, California and Washington can be found in the company's five nominations. In Afghanistan, a service member innocently texted a Tesoro supervisor, “I miss Fritos.” Tesoro leaders conspired and put word out to retail contacts throughout the U.S. and a few weeks later a massive shipment of Fritos arrived and was shared with units all over the province. After deployment, a service member was allowed to meet Veterans Affairs counselors during work hours and work from a temporary office closer to parents for weeks. A father’s email testimony: “I work for Tesoro in [California]; I’m not a service member, but my son joined [the] Army in 2014. Without asking, our enlarged Tesoro family sent my son and his unit care packages in Afghanistan." Another service member testimony: “Away from family for a month [in] another state; supervisor called me daily to see if I needed anything; wife became very ill; supervisor helped her and my five kids; showed genuine concern…was there for them.” Differential pay and benefits continued up to 12 months. “Gone one year, hired replacement, got pay grade bump on return,” a service member wrote. Service members get going-away and welcome home parties; supervisors/VETS send care packages; thank you and welcome home banners at company entrances; senior leaders are visible, vocal and very involved with service members and military support.

Zapata, Inc.

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“In my 10 years with Zapata, my family and I have had first-hand experience with Zapata’s commitment to supporting active guard and Reserve members.” - Lt. Col. Richard Smith, Air National Guard

Zapata is a global full-service architecture-engineering and field services firm. Nominator Air Force Maj. Richard Smith said, “Zapata is fully supportive of my needs and obligations as both a member, and a squadron commander, in the [North Carolina] Air National Guard. They have been great about maintaining contact with my family when I’m away from home fulfilling my military duties.” 30 percent of the permanent workforce are serving in the National Guard or Reserve or are veterans. When field operations are in progress, the percentage of National Guard, Reserve or veteran employees increases to as much as 75 percent. 90 percent of the munitions services team are veterans. Zapata provides paid time off for short-term military obligations up to 15 days, providing differential pay for military obligations after the 15 days. Benefits are available during all military obligations. Zapata has instilled a corporate culture of support for those serving or who have served. Zapata has a strong heart for the military family. It created its own enhanced family-directed program, actively engaging company members in robust family support. Zapata provides care packages to its deployed military personnel and has provided unit mission support. Zapata recognizes all major national holidays, with particular emphasis upon those celebrating or honoring our military. On Veterans Day, in addition to a companywide gathering, Zapata invites all military team members to lunch at a very nice restaurant to share camaraderie, remembrance, and celebration. Zapata is active in many other service-connected organizations, including the North Carolina Military Business Council, Design-Build Institute of America, National Association of Ordnance Contractors and the North Carolina Defense Business Association.

Freedom Award Logo

The Guard and Reserve make up almost one-half of the U.S. military. The Defense Department shares these citizen warriors with civilian employers, many of whom provide significant support to employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve.

The Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award is the highest recognition given by the U.S. government to employers for supporting employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve. The award recognizes employers who provide the most outstanding support for Guard and Reserve employees and is presented annually by the Secretary of Defense.

Learn more at www.FreedomAward.mil.

Award Recipients Announced Link
Finalists Named Link
The Semifinalists Link
List of Nominees Link

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