From left: Equity and Diversity Director Seema Desai; Chief Warrant Officer 5 Brent Jensen; Command Sgt. Major Doug Wortham; MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle; Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen; Deputy Commissioner Sue Mulvihill; Assistant Commissioner Jody Martinson; and  Lt. Col. Joe Sharkey.

Minnesota National Guard honors MnDOT as recipient of Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award

The Minnesota National Guard presented the Minnesota Department of Transportation with a certificate of appreciation for its support of National Guard and Reserve military members who are also MnDOT employees and for receiving the 2018 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.

Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen presented the certificate of appreciation Sept. 12 and thanked MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle for the support the agency provides to its employees who are military members.

“This Freedom Award is a tremendous accomplishment to earn,” said Jensen.

“You don’t win it. You earn it. This is a testament to MnDOT’s commitment and support to the Guard.”

MnDOT received the Freedom award Aug. 24 at the Pentagon Auditorium in Washington, D.C. Zelle and other MnDOT staff attended the award ceremony.

The award is the highest U.S. government honor to employers for support of National Guard and Reserve employees.

In accepting the certificate from Jensen, Zelle said MnDOT has always had a great relationship with the National Guard, noting the Guard’s support of MnDOT’s yearly Snowplow Operators Training at Camp Ripley.

“We recognize the veterans as an important part of our culture here at MnDOT,” Zelle said. “We know these employees possess a certain level of discipline and a certain level of responsibility.

The military presence in our agency benefits our culture.” MnDOT has 500 veterans as employees, including those who actively serve as a member of the Guard and Reserve.

Fifteen different organizations received the Freedom Award this year, out of more than 2,350 nominations highlighting how civilian employers went far beyond what federal law requires to support them. The Freedom Award began in 1996 to recognize exceptional employer support, and only 250 companies nationwide have received it.

MnDOT was nominated by Capt. TJ Melcher, MnDOT’s public engagement director in Bemidji. "As a member of the Minnesota National Guard,” said Melcher, “I am proud of the supportive culture at MnDOT; it’s what sets them apart from other employers. The exceptional care of leaders, along with the additional devotion of regular employees, to supporting citizen soldiers and their families.”

Award nominations come from a Guard or Reserve member who is employed by the organization they are nominating.

Nominations were submitted for employers in all 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia.

Established in 1972, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve is a U.S. Department of Defense agency that seeks to promote a culture in which all American employers support and value the military service of their employees.

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