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910th, ESGR present Patriot Award to local company

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Bob Barko Jr.
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

There is an old adage that goes something like, “Everyone works for someone.” For most people, this is true. In the case of members of the U.S. Air Force Reserve, this saying is often doubled. Many Reserve Citizen Airmen find themselves balancing their civilian job and their military commitment. Senior Airman Matt Weems, an Aircrew Flight Equipment apprentice assigned to the 910th Operations Support Squadron, based at nearby Youngstown Air Reserve Station, is among these individuals juggling the needs of two different employers.

For several years, Weems was an over-the-road truck driver, but as time went on and his family started to grow, he felt it was time to find a full-time job closer to home. He found a position driving trucks in the area with the Schwebel Baking Company, a 113-year-old well-known business in the Mahoning Valley.

“It was good to get a local position,” he said. “I have little ones and a family–it makes life easier.”

For Weems, everything seemed to be going very well with his new position. Yet, he was concerned that the decision he made last year to join the Air Force Reserve may impact his civilian career.

“I was nervous about having the talk with my boss that I’d need to be away for more than a year between basic military training, my tech school and seasoning training,” he said.

Weems was relieved to learn that his immediate supervisor, John Ritzler, Schwebel Baking Company transportation manager, took the news in stride and asked Weems to keep him updated as Weems progressed through training and let him know as soon as possible when he would be back to work.

After returning from his Air Force technical school, Weems attended the 910th Airlift Wing newcomers program, a requirement for newly assigned Reserve Citizen Airmen to learn about the installation and resources available to them. He recalled hearing about Ohio ESGR, or Employer Support of Guard and Reserve, and the opportunity that the organization offered to recognize employers or companies that demonstrate support for Service members in the reserve component of the U.S. Armed Forces.

“When I heard that I could nominate my supervisor and the company for an award, I knew I had to get on it,” Weems said.

He contacted the 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office to ask about the ESGR nomination process. They directed him to the ESGR website and walked him through the on-line nomination process, which he said took about five minutes to complete. He also said he picked the framed option for the award and the option to have it mailed to his house.   

When the award arrived, Weems reached back out to the 910th’s PA office. The shop coordinated with Schwebel for Weems, Ritzler, local ESGR representatives and a 910th Public Affairs photojournalist to gather at the bakery for an award presentation.

The small group arrived at the company on the morning of October 21, 2019. They had expected to meet up with Ritzler and his supervisor but were surprised that the Schwebel human resources director and several members of the company’s board of directors were on hand to welcome them.

During the award presentation, Ohio ESGR East Region Chairman John Marino, explained to those gathered that companies like Schwebel, its employees and the Air Force Reserve are all co-dependent on each other.

“This is a team effort. You can’t do your work without Senior Airman Weems. You depend on him to help produce your product,” Marino said, addressing the gathered Schwebel leadership. “Without employees like him, you would go out of business, and he wouldn’t have a job to support his family. He depends on you for that. We depend on your support to let Senior Airman Weems come out and do his job with the 910th for the national defense. And we are here to thank you for that.”

At the conclusion of the award presentation, Ritzler said the nomination and the presentation was unexpected.

“It’s surprising; I’m just doing something anyone would do,” said Ritzler. “I’m not looking for recognition. It’s humbling.”

Weems said the company’s stance and his supervisor’s attitude and actions regarding his military service were an important part of allowing him to continue to serve his country.

“I appreciate this company and especially Mr. Ritzler,” Weems said. “He does the schedule, juggles the guys and makes it happen so we can get product to the stores. I am grateful to have a good job to come back to.”

Willie Lewis, Ohio ESGR East Region Awards Coordinator, indicated with the completion of the award nomination that Schwebel Baking Company will be listed on the Department of Defense website as a military friendly employer company.

“I highly encourage any Service member who works for someone else to nominate their boss for this award,” Lewis said. “If I had my way, we would be presenting Patriot Awards all day, every day all over Ohio’s East Region.”

Any 910th Airlift Wing Reserve Citizen Airmen or other Reserve Component interested in nominating their employer for the ESGR Patriot Award can visit to complete a nomination form.