‘I strive every day to do what I can do: help the people’

Associate F. Shelden FLW

Fort Leonard Wood Exchange associate Freddie Shelden has been named  2022 Worldwide Outstanding Associate with a Disability.

Shelden, a customer experience associate, has worked for the Exchange for 29 years and earned a reputation for being a shopper favorite. Fort Leonard Wood Exchange regulars flock to Shelden’s checkout lane for a chance to chat with him.

“If I see a line backing up, I’ll offer to open up a new lane, but the customers say, ‘No, that’s OK, we’re waiting for Freddie,’” said Belinda Casperson, the PX’s central checkout supervisor. “Freddie always makes sure everyone is taken care of.”

Shelden will be honored during the virtual Department of Defense Outstanding Employees with Disability Awards ceremony, which will air on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service at 2 p.m. Oct. 20. The awards are being presented during National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

For Shelden, exceling in his career is just part of his job of delivering exceptional customer service.

“I strive every day to do what I can do: help the people,” said Shelden, whose father served more than 20 years in the Army, including in World War II. “My favorite part of the job is the customers. I’ve met a lot of good people along the way.”

Associates with disabilities account for more than 16% of the Exchange workforce, which exceeds the goal of 12% established by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Four percent of the Exchange’s employees have targeted disabilities—double the DoD goal of 2% for its agencies. The Exchange leads all DoD non-appropriated-fund agencies in these categories.

“An inclusive workforce means the Exchange benefits from the unique talents and skillsets of a highly diverse team,” said Exchange Director/CEO Tom Shull. “Exemplary associates like Freddie make a positive impact on those around them, shoppers and colleagues alike.”

The Fort Leonard Wood Exchange was named this year’s Exchange Global Connection contest winner for creating and supporting an inclusive environment in which diverse skills, perspectives and backgrounds are valued.

The Exchange, the DoD’s largest retailer, works to recruit, retain and advance people with targeted disabilities. Non-competitive hiring for entry-level positions, providing reasonable accommodations, active community outreach and retaining interns from the Workforce Recruitment Program are all tools available to Exchange managers in hiring those with disabilities.

The Exchange’s regional winners of Outstanding Associate with a Disability Awards include:

Western: La Shon Arrington, March Air Reserve Base Exchange

Eastern: Donald Bickers, Fort Bragg Exchange

Europe: Jeffrey Zilka, Kaiserslautern Military Community Exchange

Pacific: Veronica Bonilla Torres, USAG Humphreys Exchange

HQ: Bernard Ruzzo, IT directorate

Logistics: Michael Karns, Dan Daniel Distribution Center



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