The Department of Defense announced three Pennsylvania employers have been selected as semifinalists for the 2011 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. The Freedom Award is the Pentagon's highest recognition given to employers for exceptional support of their employees serving in the Guard and Reserve.
Pennsylvania's semifinalists stood out, a news release said, for their support of military employees as nationwide nominations for the Freedom Award rose 64 percent from 2010.
Among the 148 semifinalists are Surgical Specialty Center of Coordinated Health in Allentown, Tobyhanna Army Depot, and the State Correctional Institution in Waymart.
These employers, according to the news release, distinguished themselves from a pool of 4,049 nominations submitted by service members in 2011. Employers chosen as semifinalists support their Guard and Reserve employees through a variety of formal and informal initiatives, including providing the difference between military and civilian salary during deployments, continuation of full benefits, sending care packages and supporting the families of employees fulfilling military obligations.
Evangelical Community Hospital and the Federal Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Truck-Lite in McElhattan, and Air Balancing Engineers Inc. and PPL SSES, both of Berwick, were among the regional businesses nominated by employees for consideration.
"Our nation's ability to rely on the Guard and Reserve through nearly 10 years of war and during historic natural disasters is made possible by the tremendous support of employers," said ESGR National Chair James G. Rebholz, according to the news releases. "The employers selected as semifinalists have distinguished themselves by going above and beyond what the law requires, and I want to thank them for their critical support on behalf of our service members and our nation."
A national review board will narrow the group of 148 semifinalists to 30 finalists for the Freedom Award. Then, a national selection board comprised of senior defense officials, business leaders and prior awardees will select the 15 recipients for the 2011 Freedom Award. The Pentagon is expected to announce the finalists in May and the award recipients in early summer. The 2011 recipients will be honored in Washington, D.C. at the 16th annual Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award Ceremony in September.
The Freedom Award was instituted in 1996, the news releases said, under the auspices of ESGR to recognize exceptional support from the employer community. ESGR was established in 1972 to develop and maintain employer support for Guard and Reserve service. ESGR advocates relevant initiatives, recognizes outstanding support, increases awareness of applicable laws, and resolves conflict between service members and employers. Paramount to ESGR's mission is encouraging employment of Guardsmen and Reservists who bring integrity, global perspective and proven leadership to the civilian workforce.