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The immeasurable benefit employers provide when they support their National Guard and Reserve soldiers was vigorously appreciated during a special luncheon at the Hilltop House Hotel Wednesday.
Officials from New Mexico’s “Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve” (ESGR), recognized UNM-Los Alamos, Los Alamos Fire Department, Los Alamos National Bank and United Way of Northern New Mexico for supporting their employees when called to serve America.
“We thank Los Alamos for all your support,” said New Mexico ESGR chairman Bungie Green. “Without your support, ESGR wouldn't be here – It’s you folks that let your people go and we know you miss them but they've got a job to do. The state of New Mexico really appreciates your support.”
Col. Jack Fox praised Rep. Jeannette Wallace - Los Alamos, Sandoval and Santa Fe counties.
“If the Guard need something ... she’s there,” he said. “She represents the finest and best of New Mexico and we appreciate her.”
Fox explained that since 9/11 the role of the employer has changed.
“Since 9/11 over 4,000 Army and Air Guardsmen have served New Mexico,” he said. “Since 9/11 there have been over 4,800 deployments in New Mexico and that means some men and women have been deployed more than once...The challenges out there are great and we truly understand the pressures on you, the employers.”
Fox called on employers to be attentive to returning soldiers’ behavior. He mentioned the Veteran’s Support Center and asked employers to refer soldiers experiencing difficulties to the center or to ESGR.
New Mexico guardsmen and reservists have served in virtually every country in the world since 9/11, Fox said.
Last year, two infantry companies were deployed to Iraq. New Mexico guardsmen and reservists have been serving an important mission at Guantanamo, he said and there are 18 guardsmen serving in Kosovo right now.
“We just got 18 guardsmen back who served with Afghanistan military and police units and another 15 are ready to go back,” Fox said. “We have companies preparing to go to war that have handled the flood in Ruidoso and went to fight hurricanes in Louisiana.”
Fox commended the New Mexico Air National Guard’s F-16 program saying it boasted an impressive 95-percent on-target success rate last year. The guardsmen just returned having increased that rate to a stellar 100 percent, he said.
“The point is, some of those men and women work for you,” he said.
Fox continued briefing the audience on accomplishments achieved by New Mexico soldiers. Three years ago, the Army asked New Mexico to stand up a warrior transition program, he said.
Through the program, the Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard have received training under this program including two weeks in Santa Fe and two weeks at White Sands Missile Range.
Some 7,000 soldiers have completed the program, which Fox explained will soon close because the Army is built back up to where it can now handle the training.
New Mexico doesn’t currently have soldiers in military theaters but Fox said there will be some 600 soldiers serving in theaters within a few months.
Fox concluded his talk saying the most important thing ESRG does for New Mexico is operate the Youth ChalleNGe Academy in Roswell where through training, discipline, structure, and mentoring; the program provides the education, physical fitness and life coping skills to “at risk” youth so they may become contributing members of society.
In its seventh year, some 1,222 teenagers have graduated from the academy, many have gone on the complete college, Fox said.
Commander Sgt. Major Richard Bryant also addressed the audience of some 50 employers and soldiers. He detailed additional functions served by Reserve and Guardsmen including participation in funeral services. “Last year had 1,916 military funeral honors,” Bryant said.
He thanked employers for their support saying, “It’s very important to us.”
ESGR was established 36 years ago to promote cooperation and understanding between Reserve and National Guard members and their civilian employers. The organization also assists in conflict resolution arising from an employee's military commitment.
ESGR operates through a nationwide network of more than 4,500 volunteers throughout 56 committees, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Europe.
How you can help
Here are some tips for employers with National Guard or Reserve member employees:
Each employer has a role in maintaining a strong national defense.
Today, the National Guard and Reserve are an integral part of America's defense forces.
More than half of the men and women serving in the armed forces are members of the National Guard and Reserve.
Their performance must meet the same standards as their active duty counterparts. However, since they do not serve full-time, the cost to the government is far less.
Employers are vital to enabling employees who are members of the National Guard and Reserve to serve their country. The active support and encouragement of employers is key to their success.
Suggestions on how employers can help soldiers include:
• Learning more about the role of the National Guard and Reserve.
Attend open houses and public functions at local military units. Talk about the National Guard and Reserve with military and civilian leaders in the community. Ask employees what they do and how they fit into the “big picture” of national defense.
• Get to know the employees’ military commanders and supervisors. Ask them to provide advance notice of employee’s annual military duty schedule and work out conflicts as early as possible, while alternative arrangements may be possible. Contact local ESGR representatives to make arrangements to meet commanders and supervisors.
• Employers are encouraged to put their support in writing by signing a Statement of Support for the National Guard and Reserve.
Display it prominently for all employees and visitors to see. These certificates can be obtained from the National or local ESGR committee or from the ESGR website.
• Review personnel policies to ensure they accommodate and support participation in the National Guard or Reserve. For example, do they include provisions for military leave of absence (exclusive of earned vacation time); do they ensure job opportunities and benefits equivalent to those of other employees?
ESGR provides employers with information on what other businesses are doing to accommodate National Guard and Reserve members in their workplace.
• Get the entire management team to promote the support of the National Guard and Reserve.