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STAFF PHOTO/BROOKE WILLIAMS Holcombe Energy Resource in Tunkhannock recently received the Above and Beyond Award from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. From left are Matt Austin, Brandi Ryce and Coy Forrester.

When Matt Austin and Brandi Ryce founded Holcombe Energy Resource 10 years ago, they wanted to prioritize taking care of employees who have made sacrifices for the United States.

“When we get an application and it is a service member or a veteran, that certainly brings them to the top of the pile,” Austin said of the oil field service company. “We interview and hire as many as we can get a hold of.”

But it doesn’t end there.

Once hired, they go a step further by not only respecting their employees’ military status, but making sure to never hold it against them in any way.

With Holcombe and their other two businesses, Eastern Freight Systems and OSO Wash, they have no issue with an active duty employee needing to leave when the military calls.

“His job isn’t on the line. We understand this. We know that [the military] is No. 1,” Ryce said. “His job will be here when he returns.”

Reasons like these have led to recognition for Holcombe from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense program that promotes cooperation between service members and their non-military employers.

For the past five years, Holcombe has received a series of awards from the ESGR, most recently the Above and Beyond Award.

Twenty-three other companies received the award this year, which honors employers who go “above and beyond” requirements outlined in the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994.

Last year, Holcombe earned the Seven Seals Award for its advancement of the ESGR mission.

“It really boils down to having employees that feel like they’re treated well,” Austin said. “It’s the service members that recommend companies, so we don’t have any authority or control over being submitted for this.”

Rather, Holcombe employees tell the ESGR that they enjoy their jobs and appreciate the way they’re treated at work.

One of these employees is Coy Forrester, a 31-year-old member of the U.S. Army National Guard.

“It feels comfortable knowing that they hire veterans,” Forrester said. “They’ve had no problems with my drill weekends or if I have to go to a class or go to any military-related doctor appointments or anything.”

At Holcombe, employees can still expect holiday pay even if they’re out of work, deployed in war zones.

“We consider that as exemplary service, not missed time that we’re angry about,” Austin said.

The company also makes an effort to be available for their employees’ families when they’re away.

“Our employees know that when they’re gone, we’re here and available to their families to support them,” he said. “If we get a call from their spouse or their kid and they have a problem, this company is going to support them.”

All three of Austin and Ryce’s companies prioritize hiring those with military experience because of the values that their experiences bring to the table.

This includes leadership, professionalism and responsibility, just to name a few, Austin said, who believes it’s important to support military members and veterans every day in general.

“At the end of the day, they’re sacrificing a lot in their own lives to be in the military and protect the freedoms we all are fortunate to have,” he said.

The company takes pride in receiving awards from the ESGR and hopes to eventually earn higher honors with the organization.

“There’s no other award that we get that we’re more proud of because this is a direct reflection of the service members that work with us being proud of us and feeling that we’re doing the right thing,” Austin said.