Reserve-Component Troops Urged to Keep Employers Informed
By Sgt. Stephanie L. Carl, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Dec. 3, 2004 Behind nearly every deployed National Guardsman or Reservist, there is a civilian employer who is waiting for an employee to return.
Most civilian employers support their servicemembers by holding positions for them, while some even maintain insurance benefits. The better the relationship these deployed citizen-soldiers maintain with their employer, the better their reintegration is likely to be upon redeployment.
"Troops need to take the time to involve their employers in what they are doing," said Maj. Gen. Steve Read, U.S. Army Reserve readiness commander. "If soldiers keep their employers informed and abreast of what's going on, the employers will tend to be more receptive."
The first step in keeping employers informed is ensuring they know the initial timeframe for a deployment, when the deployment is expected to start and approximately how long it will last.
All National Guardsmen and Reservists fall under the guidelines of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. This act provides strict guidance for both servicemembers and employers. Some employers choose to go above and beyond what USERRA requires.
"There have been some employers who have continued health insurance during deployments, or at least until the servicemembers are able to pick up their Tricare benefits," said Master Sgt. Gregory Jacobs, Army Reserve Affairs retention noncommissioned officer for Afghanistan. These benefits help the families who are left behind, and they help the soldiers by easing the stress a deployment can induce.
To recognize those employers who go out of their way to support armed forces personnel, there are various awards at both the state and federal level.
"In the civilian world there really are no awards," said Lt. Col. Charles Kirchen, Army Reserve Affairs officer in charge for Afghanistan. "To many employers, it is a big deal to get these awards."
It's up to the individual servicemembers to recommend their employers for awards. This can be done through the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Web site. But there are other ways to show appreciation as well.
"Soldiers can show their appreciation very easily," said Capt. James Carmichael, 221st Ordnance Company commander, an Army Reserve officer based out of Fort Wayne, Ind. "Something as simple as having a flag flown in their honor and presenting it with a certificate can mean a lot to an employer."
In addition to small tokens of appreciation, servicemembers should continue to communicate with their employers throughout their deployment.
"Stay in touch with them, let them know you're all right," advised Sgt. Maj. Scott White, Reserve Affairs senior enlisted adviser for Afghanistan. "Employers are just as concerned about the well-being of their soldiers as anyone else -- they want to know you're being taken care of."
In the end, it all goes back to communication, said White. "If you're up front and honest with your employer," he said, "they will be able to support you better."
(Army Sgt. Stephanie L. Carl is assigned to the 17th Public Affairs Detachment.)