Howard County fire department receives DoD award

The Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services received the 2017 Secretary of Defense Employer Freedom Award, the highest honor given by the federal government to employers who support their employees in the National Guard and Reserve.

Fifteen department employees serve in the military, HCDFRS spokeswoman Maria Hogg said.


The department is one of 15 employers nationally to receive the award, which saw more than 3,000 submissions, and is the only Maryland nominee. The award, distributed by the Department of Defense's Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program, is meant to publicly recognize employers who "have gone above and beyond federal requirements in support of their military employees," according to a news release.

"Howard County Fire and Rescue is proud to support our National Guard and Reserve members as well as their families," said Fire Chief John Butler in the release. "I credit our county administration with providing us the opportunity to support those who continue to serve both locally and nationally."

Gamaliel Baer, who is a member of the Coast Guard reserve and nominated the department for the award, has been a Howard County firefighter since 2008. Members of the Coast Guard reserve typically serve one weekend per month and two weeks per year.

Bear, an Ellicott City resident, said the department has continuously supported him during his military career. The department provides leave and ensures military members remain in their pay grade and retain their positions while serving, he said.

"Obviously starting a new service obligation on a national level, it's not easy to do that immediately in the middle of another career," Baer said, "but the department was supportive."

The department also purchased a red, white and blue fire truck and paramedic unit adorned with the messages "We Support Our Troops" and "We Support our Veterans," according to the release.

Baer emphasized the support of Butler, who served in the Marines and wrote Baer's letters of recommendations for the Coast Guard and graduate school.

"This is not about me, this is about him," Baer said. "This is about his support of the department and the department's support of military members."

The Howard County fire department will be honored Aug. 25 in a ceremony at the Pentagon. This is the department's first time receiving the award, which was established in 1996. Past Maryland recipients include Sodexo USA in Gaithersburg, Central Atlantic Toyota Distribution Center in Glen Burnie and BAE Systems in Rockville.

"Our Fire Department is a strong advocate for hiring military to work within its ranks," said Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman in the release. "They recognize the unique skill set found among those who train and serve with the military and the value these skills bring to protecting the residents and visitors in Howard County."