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ESGR in the News


NEW BRIGHTON, Minn. – Sgt. Drew Payne, Minnesota Army National Guard presented an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) Patriot Award to Nick Gifford, Owner of Gifford Fitness, for whom he works as a fitness coach. Payne, who is currently deployed, participated by Zoom and ESGR Minnesota Committee Member Christie Nixon presented the award to Gifford in person.

Payne is a 9 water treatment specialist and has been a member of the Minnesota Army National Guard since 2016. In his time with the Guard, he has deployed overseas; has been called to State Active Duty at least twice to train and work as a Certified Nursing Assistant in response to COVID-19; and was called up to respond to civil unrest in Minneapolis. Payne is currently deployed to support the Department of Homeland Security border security mission.

Payne in expressing how much he appreciates the support Nick Gifford has given to him, on top of basic employment security, called out a number of Gifford’s strengths as a supervisor and mentor. Gifford has helped him communicate better with a wide variety of clients and develop his coaching skills and professional abilities. Gifford observes him coaching, is open to Drew’s feedback and ideas, and helps him develop alternative ways of achieving a particular result. Drew was particularly appreciative of the staff development meetings and coach development courses that Gifford runs or makes available to all of the staff.

By giving Drew continued access to the gym’s Workout of the Day during his current deployment, Gifford has allowed Drew to maintain a strong connection with the gym and continue to develop his coaching skills and professional abilities.

Drew also noted the critical assistance of two other colleagues, Matt Fedde and Laura Narhi, in picking up the slack during his time(s) away. They received ESGR Coins from ESGR Minnesota Committee Member Christie Nixon.

Gifford expressed his appreciation for the community that the gym’s members and coaches have created, and Drew’s place in that community. His statement that “core fundamentals are never flashy” applies not only to CrossFit movements and Olympic lifts, but also to the way he has treated all of his employees and clients, including SGT Drew Payne.

In addition to receiving the Patriot Award, Mr. Gifford signed an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Statement of Support, confirming that the company joins other employers in pledging:

  • We fully recognize, honor, and comply with the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act (USERRA).
  • We will provide our managers and supervisors with the tools they need to effectively manage employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve.
  • We appreciate the values, leadership and unique skills service members bring to the workforce and will encourage opportunities to hire Guardsmen, Reservists and Veterans.
  • We will continually recognize and support our country’s service members and their families, in peace, in crises and in war.

ESGR is a Department of Defense office that develops and promotes supportive work environments for service members in the National Guard and Reserve through outreach, recognition, and educational opportunities that increase awareness of applicable laws. ESGR also assists in resolving conflicts between Service members and their employers. In 2022 ESGR celebrated 50 years of excellence in support of Guard and Reserve Components and their civilian employers. For more information about ESGR outreach programs or volunteer opportunities, call (800) 336-4590 or visit

Photo: Christie Nixon (Minnesota ESGR Volunteer) and Nick Gifford (Owner, Gifford Fitness).

Photo: Nick Gifford signs Statement of Support

Posted in: Illinois, Minnesota
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