PLEASANTON, Calif. — Safeway was selected to receive the 2013 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the nation's highest honor given to employers for exceptional support of National Guard and Reserve employees. Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, an office of the Department of Defense, announced the award recipients on Tuesday.
Safeway is one of six large companies and the only retailer to be honored with the prestigious Freedom Award. Nine other award recipients are small- to mid-sized businesses or public-sector employers. The recipients, who were chosen from a pool of nearly 3,000 nominated private and public sector employers, were selected for their demonstrated programs, policies and achievements in support and hiring members of the National Guard and Reserve.
"I commend and thank the 15 recipients of the 2013 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award for providing exceptional support to our Citizen Warriors," stated Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. "So many of our nation's employers are finding ways to contribute to our nation's security, but these employers stand out for their commitment to our Guardsmen and Reservists. They have the gratitude and thanks of the entire Department of Defense."
"Providing employment opportunities and training to our men and women in uniform and veterans are among the most important public services we perform," stated Safeway's president and CEO, Robert Edwards. "We are honored to be among a select group of private and public sector organizations who can now call themselves Freedom Award recipients."
Safeway was among the first employers to commit more than 10 years ago to cover the pay differential and extend full benefits to employees in the Reserve and National Guard called to active duty. In 2012, Safeway hired nearly 1,500 veterans, with more than 1,300 of them hired into the company's retail stores. Safeway also has committed to hiring at least another 1,500 veterans by the end of 2013.
"We saw an opportunity to recruit new kinds of leaders who will become an important and critical part of our future," stated Larree Renda, Safeway EVP. "Our JMO and NCO recruiting program officially launched in 2010. We accept applicants who have been officers or non-\commissioned officers in the military and place them in an accelerated leadership program."
The 2013 Freedom Award recipients will be honored at the 18th annual Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award ceremony in Washington Sept. 26.