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Angie Wieck, Published May 01 2013

Wanzek Construction semifinalist for award

FARGO – Wanzek Construction has been named a semifinalist for the 2013 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the highest honor the Department of Defense bestows upon an employer.

The award recognizes employers who provide extraordinary support to their National Guard and Reserve employees.

“What makes this award unique is that only a reservist or a guardsman can nominate their employer,” said Beth Sherman of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve public affairs office.

“That service member thinks highly enough of their company to sit down and go through the steps to nominate them.”

Fargo-based Wanzek Construction was nominated by Joshua Young, an E5 sergeant with the Minnesota National Guard who has been employed as a welder and millwright by the company since 2010.

Young said he appreciates his foreman, Mike Johnson, and superintendent, Brian Gustafson, for their understanding and willingness to work around his deployment and other Guard responsibilities.

Sherman said one of the biggest concerns for guardsmen and reservists is having a job when they return from a deployment.

Companies such as Wanzek Construction have a human resource department that understands and follows the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, which makes all the difference for a soldier’s transition back to civilian life, she said.

Young also benefits from a superintendent who understands military service. Gustafson served in the U.S. Army during Operation Desert Storm, and Gustafson’s supervisor, Darren Wetzel, is a retired Army National Guard member.

Gustafson said he understands that hiring service members may bring availability or scheduling challenges, but he believes a soldier’s character traits such as punctuality, honesty and trustworthiness more than make up for it.

In addition to job security, Wanzek offers supplemental military pay to service members who are deployed.

If employees earn less than their Wanzek wage while deployed, the company will pay the difference for up to six months. It also provides differential pay for two weeks each year for military training.

More than 2,800 employers were nominated for the Freedom Award this year. The field of 138 semifinalists will be trimmed to 30 finalists this month, and up to 15 winners will be announced this summer. Winners will be honored at a ceremony in September in Washington.

Two North Dakota businesses have received the award since its inception in 1996. Ag Country Farm Credit Services was honored in 2006 and Basin Electric Power Cooperative in 2012.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501