SHOUT OUT: Upper Saddle River police were one of three New Jersey semifinalists in the running for the highest honor the U.S. Department of Defense can give an organization for supporting the National Guard and Reserves.
The Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award is given to an employer who provides “extraordinary support” to their Guard and Reserve employees. The other New Jersey semifinalists were Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield in Newark and Grande Brothers Inc. of Toms River.
Thirty finalists – none from New Jersey – were chosen from an overall field of 2,864 who were nominated by a Reserve member who is employed by the organization nominated.
Of those, up to 15 will receive the award, which ordinarily is bestowed by the President of the Secretary of Defense.
Upper Saddle River police last week received a pro patria award from the Employers Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), which recognizes support of law enforcement officers assigned to the Guard or Reserves.
Recognition certificates, a statement of support and a ceremonial trophy were presented during a luncheon that drew active and retired members of all U.S. military branches to the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Holmdel.
Borough Police Sgt. Emmett McDowell is assigned to the Air Force Reserves, while Officer Vincent Siracusa is assigned to the Army National Guard.
“I am proud to have soldiers like Sergeant McDowell and Officer Siracusa working for my agency,” Police Chief Patrick Rotella said. “They both should be commended for their tireless efforts and their service to our country.
“They bring back to my agency specialized military training, leadership, unique skills, and most importantly, an in-depth insight [into] the current threats facing our country,” the chief added. “Their military training has undoubtedly helped the Police Department on a daily basis, as well as during times of emergency and national disaster.”
Siracusa, a 10-year department veteran, served four years active duty in the Navy and currently is a captain with the New Jersey Army National Guard. He deployed to Iraq as a company commander in 2008 and in 2012 to Afghanistan as a mentor to the Albanian and Afghani national armies. Siracusa was promoted to major during his last deployment and currently works with the Battle Staff Training team at Fort Dix.
McDowell served four years of active duty in Air Force before joining the Reserves. He currently holds the rank of technical sergeant and works in quality assurance on KC-10 and C-17 aircraft. McDowell has flown with the Air Force on more than 15 missions since 2005 and was deployed in 2003 and 2004 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Nearly 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,” ESGR said.
Established in 1972, ESGR is a Department of Defense agency 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,” the organization said.
Since it was authorized in 1996, the Freedom Award has been presented to 190 employers nationwide in three categories: large business, small business and the public sector.
A national selection board comprised of senior DOD officials and business leaders chooses the award recipients.
The employers selected as semifinalists “demonstrate their commitment to Guard and Reserve employees through initiatives such as setting veteran hiring goals, establishing military employee liaisons, arranging care package drives and granting additional leave for military members to spend time with family.”
The 15 award recipients will be announced within a few weeks and honored in Washington, D.C. in September at the 19th annual Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award ceremony.
(PHOTO: Pictured left to right with military and ESGR staff are Upper Saddle River Police Officer Vincent Siracusa, Sgt. Emmett McDowell, Borough Administrator Ted Preusch, Lt. David Lally, Chief Patrick Rotella.)
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