Top Employers Honored for Guard, Reserve Support
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 14, 2005 Representatives of the nation's top organizations in supporting their Reserve and National Guard employees are here today to meet President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and to receive the 2005 Secretary of Defense Freedom Award.
The award, to be presented here during an Oct. 15 ceremony, publicly recognizes employers for exceptional support above what the law requires.
The Freedom Award is the highest in a series of Defense Department employer awards that include the Patriot Award, the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Above and Beyond Award, and the Pro Patria Award.
This year's winners "set a high standard for all America's private and public employers," David Janes, national chairman of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, said in announcing them in July.
This year's winners are Alticor Inc. in Ada, Mich.; Citizens Financial Group, Providence, R.I.; Eaton Corp., Cleveland; Enterprise Rent-a-Car, St. Louis; IDA Corp., Boise, Idaho; Los Angeles Police Department; Louisiana Department of Safety and Corrections, Baton Rouge; Pioneer Financial Services, Kansas City, Mo.; Ryland Homes, Calabasas, Calif.; Sears, Roebuck and Co., Hoffman Estates, Ill.; South Dakota State University, Brookings; State of Delaware, Dover; Toyota Motor Sales, USA Inc., Torrance, Calif.; USAA, San Antonio; and Wachovia Corp., Charlotte, N.C.
The companies were selected based on a variety of factors, from providing pay differentials to extending health care, dental and life insurance coverage during employees' military mobilization. All have signed statements of support for the Guard and Reserve at the five-star level, which designates that they are strong advocates for the reserve components and role models for other companies.
Eaton, Enterprise, IDA, Wachovia, the LAPD and the Louisiana Department of Safety and Corrections pay their employees' full salary, regardless of their military compensation, plus benefits for the entire length of their mobilization. All other award winners provide pay differentials for their deployed workers.
Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, called these pay differentials an important show of support to activated Guard and Reserve members, about one-third of whom take a pay cut when they leave their civilian jobs to go on active duty.
But the employers' support goes beyond pay. At Citizens Financial Group, employees get a week of paid leave to be with their Guard or Reserve family members home on military leave. The benefit includes up to $500 in travel expenses. Department managers at Alticor contact the families of deployed employees at least monthly to check up on them, and the company sends regular care packages to families as well as to their reserve-component employees.
Eaton provides regular support for its workers' families, even helping with needed home repairs, and Enterprise's president actively participates in organizing care packages for deployed employees.
Pioneer Services pays for deployed employees' cell phone charges and Internet access fees for their families, including a video e-mail capability for their home computers. Ryland Homes sends its employees care packages during their deployments, stays in close touch with their families and pays out special deployment bonuses.
Sears extended its military pay differential and benefits to 60 months for employees called to active duty in the Guard and Reserve, and helps their spouses find jobs if they're interested. Toyota launched its Hire a Hero program to promote career opportunities in the company for Guard and Reserve members, as well as servicemembers leaving active duty, and helps fund a wide range of nonprofit groups that support military men and women.
While praising these efforts, ESGR officials are quick to point out that this year's winners are among thousands of employees nationwide who demonstrate their patriotism through exceptional support for their Guard and Reserve employees.
"I am absolutely astounded by how much the American employers have stood solidly behind the American soldier, airman, Marines, sailors and Coast Guard in this global war on terror," Blum said.
"There's been no wavering of their patriotism and support," he said of the employers, who "understand what's at stake" in the war on terror and recognize the contribution their workers are making.
"It is truly quite remarkable, and it makes you feel very, very good," the general said.