The Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award is the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers for their support of their employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve.
Nominations must come from a Guard or Reserve member who is employed by the organization they are nominating, or from a family member.
The award was created to publicly recognize employers who provide exceptional support to their Guard and Reserve employees. It is the highest in a series of employer recognition awards given by the Department of Defense.
Almost one-half of the U.S. military is comprised of the Guard and Reserve. The Department of Defense shares these citizen warriors with their civilian employers, many of whom provide significant support to their employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve. This award recognizes employers who provide the most outstanding support for their Guard and Reserve employees and is presented annually by the Secretary of Defense.
The Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award was instituted in 1996 under the auspices of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). ESGR is a Department of Defense office established in 1972 whose mission is to gain and maintain employer support for Guard and Reserve service by advocating relevant initiatives, recognizing outstanding support, increasing awareness of applicable laws and resolving conflict between employers and service members.
Secretary of Defense William Perry authorized the first award in 1996 and presented it to Schneider National, McDonnell Douglas, United Parcel Service Central Florida District, Tektronix, Inc. and National Life of Vermont. In the years since, a total of 280 employers have received this prestigious award. Today, up to 15 awards are presented each year to employers in three categories, large business, small business and the public sector.
The nomination process is open to all Guard and Reserve personnel or a family member acting on their behalf and applications are submitted online to ESGR. A national selection board comprised of senior Defense officials and business leaders select the award recipients.