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Deadline for Freedom Award Nominations Approaching

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Jan. 09, 2008) -- The deadline for servicemembers in the National Guard and Reserve to nominate their employers for the 2008 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award is fast approaching.

The nomination deadline for that award is Jan. 21.

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The Employer Support Freedom Award is designed to serve as recognition of the support civilian employers give to reserve-component servicemembers.

Some civilian employers, for instance, might continue to provide a certain amount of pay to servicemembers, even when they have deployed. That compensation fills the income gap sometimes created when servicemembers switch from working for their civilian companies to working for the military because of a deployment. But Air National Guard Lt. Col. Michelle Barrett, spokesperson for the ESRG, said the award is not just about money.

"This is about the things that make the most impact," she said. "It's the care packages, the coworkers that step up and help a family left behind, the fence that gets fixed while a Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine or Coast Guardsman is deployed. Those are some of the things the selection committee looks at."

The nomination form asks servicemembers to rate their employers' performance in areas such as pay policies, benefits and leave policies, family support, deployed member support and hiring preferences.

Lt. Col. Barrett said reserve-component servicemembers should take the time to nominate deserving civilian employers because sometimes those employers are unaware if their personnel policies regarding military members are having any effect on their employees.

"I think the biggest thing is that this lets employers know that what they do for Guard and Reserve employees is being recognized," she said. "There are a lot of good stories out there and we need to hear them and we need servicemembers to tell them."

Recipients of the Employer Support Freedom Award will attend a ceremony Sept. 18 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. As part of their visit to the Nation's capital, employers will also visit with President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

"For employers, this is a big deal," Lt. Col. Barrett said. "This event gets a lot of media coverage, and the dinner is attended by members of Congress, members of the Senate, and senior military members. But this is also a chance for leaders of the winning companies to meet some of the people that work for them -- people they might never have met before -- especially in the bigger companies."

Servicemembers in the reserve components can nominate their civilian employers at the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Web site at

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