PLEASANTON, Calif. — Safeway here is one of 15 companies — and the only retailer — selected to receive the 2013 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, given to employers for exceptional support of National Guard and Reserve employees.


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Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), an office of the Department of Defense, announced the award recipients today.

Safeway is one of six large companies to receive the Freedom Award. Nine other award recipients are small- to midsized businesses or public-sector employers. The recipients, who came from a pool of nearly 3,000 nominated private and public sector employers, were selected for having programs and policies aimed at 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," said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in a statement. "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."

Robert Edwards"Providing employment opportunities and training to our men and women in uniform and veterans are among the most important public services we perform," said Robert Edwards, Safeway's president and chief executive officer. "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 to covering the pay differential and extend full benefits to employees in the Reserve and National Guard called to active duty. The company has supported employment of returning veterans through its Junior Military Officer and Non-Commissioned Officer (JMO/NCO) Program. In 2012, Safeway hired nearly 1,500 veterans, including over 1,300 of them in the company's retail stores. Safeway has also 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," said Larree Renda, Safeway’s executive vice president.  "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."

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Graduates qualify for store manager and assistant manager jobs and a range of other manager-level positions in the distribution and backstage departments at Safeway. The 41-week intensive training program includes a combination of on-the-job training, mentoring, classroom seminars, job shadowing and independent study, as well as participating in numerous department and key leadership strategy sessions. 

In addition, Safeway's Retail Military Recruiting efforts were launched in 2012 to increase efforts in hiring veterans of all backgrounds into the retail store environment.

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In 2011, the company launched an annual Veterans Day weekend fundraiser. To date, Safeway has collected and donated more than $2 million to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project and other organizations that help veterans recover from service-related injuries and return to the civilian workforce. Its various divisions also participate in local fund-raisers and community service initiatives to support veterans.

The 2013 Freedom Award recipients will be honored at the 18th annual Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award ceremony in Washington on September 26.

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