Group Fosters Employer Understanding of Military

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 24, 2007 - The National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve has worked to gain and maintain the support of America's employers for the nation's National Guardsmen and reservists since 1972.

ESGR is a member of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with members of the military and their families at home and abroad.

"ESGR was formed (because) the secretary of defense and the president of the United States recognized that we were going to an all-volunteer force ... and that we were going to depend more on the Guard and Reserve," Air Force Reserve Maj. Robert Palmer, the national committee's chief of strategic communications, said. "(They also realized) that there needed to be a DoD organization whose mission was to foster good relations with employers."

ESGR has a three-pronged approach to succeeding at its mission, Palmer said. It conducts outreach activities to familiarize employers with the role and the mission of the reserve components.

The organization also offers informal mediation for employers or employees needing assistance resolving issues pertaining to employees' military service and the 1994 Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act, he said.

"We have volunteers trained in what the law says as well as dispute resolution," Palmer said. "If we can resolve problems quickly and easily for a Guardsman and reservist, that's a value to both the (servicemember) and the employer."

To reward employers who go above and beyond what USERRA requires from an employer in support of military employees, ESGR operates an awards program, he said. "We recognize employers that go above and beyond what the law requires," Palmer said

Each year state ESGR committees can present Above and Beyond Awards and Pro Patria Awards to employers who excel in supporting their military employees. At the national level, employee-nominated employers can earn Patriot Awards.

"Our highest honor ... is the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award," Palmer said. "Up to 15 employers are recognized each year with the Freedom Award."

Award recipients are categorized as large private employers, small private employers, and public-sector employers, he said. Some notable Freedom Award recipients include American Express, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Harley Davidson, Wachovia Bank.

"Harley Davidson always resonates with the military crowd," Palmer added.

Supporting the military certainly resonates with the American public, but occasionally Palmer said he receives offers to support troops that ESGR can't make use of. That's when the organization's America Supports You membership and the networking opportunities it provides, comes into play.

"If someone contacts me and we're unable to use their help, I know that I can turn to America Supports You (to) plug them in," Palmer said.
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