STORM LAKE, Iowa (KCAU) — The Storm Lake Police Department (SLPD) was among 15 recipients of the 2022 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the highest U.S. government honor to employers for support of National Guard and Reserve employees.

The awards were announced on August 2.

The recipients include private and public sector employers across the nation nominated by a National Guard or Reserve member employed in their organization, according to a release from the City of Storm Lake. The SLPD was nominated by Officer Gerardo Bravo, a member of the Iowa Army National Guard.

The City of Storm Lake and its police department have long been employers of military members, the release indicated. Storm Lake City Manager Keri Navratil said that seven members of the police department are soldiers in the Army National Guard. 

“We appreciate and support their commitment to our country as well as our community,” Navratil said. “During Army National Guard deployments and various trainings, Storm Lake Police officers, the assistant chief and chief all step forward to cover shifts as necessary to serve and protect the community through appropriate patrol. We recognize and applaud their efforts and contributions in demonstrating what it means to be Storm Lake Proud.”

Gerardo Bravo, Army National Guard member and Storm Lake officer

Storm Lake Police Chief Chris Cole said the department is “humbled and honored” to receive the award. He said he is also proud to have Bravo in the department.

“We’re grateful to have officers like Officer Bravo. He is a great example of someone who truly lives a life of service. He serves the citizens of Storm Lake as a police officer and serves our county in the Army National Guard,” Cole said.

The Freedom Award has to date honored over 300 employers for their exceptional support of military member employees over the past 26 years.

“I am proud to salute the employers who have distinguished themselves by being named Freedom Award recipients as we mark the 26th year of this highly coveted recognition,” said Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III. “The men and women of the National Guard and Reserve make significant contributions to our communities and our national security through their civilian and military careers. By valuing and supporting their employees’ military service, these employers enhance the strength, readiness, and diversity of our National Guard and Reserve forces, and the readiness of the Total Force. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, recognizing the sacrifices and stalwart dedication of our Reserve Components, their service members, and the outstanding supportive employers who go above and beyond.”

ESGR received 2,777 nominations for this prestigious award for employers throughout the 50 states and U.S. territories.

The 2022 Freedom Award recipients will be recognized in local ceremonies by Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve State Chairs.

Storm Lake Police Department is the lone honoree in Iowa, and one of only three in the midwestern U.S.