Florida Employers Cited For Support of Guard, Reserve Members
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., May. 4, 2007 Seven Sunshine State employers of National Guardsmen and reservists were honored for exemplary support of their employees during a Defense Department-hosted award ceremony here yesterday.
Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Mayor Jim Naugle (left) and Luisa Gutman, executive director of human resources at Holy Cross Hospital there, sign National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve 5-Star Statements of Support that reemphasized their support of their employees in the National Guard or reserves during a ceremony in Fort Lauderdale on May 3. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Thomas F. Hall, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, was on hand to present the Above and Beyond Awards to the employers. The National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a defense department agency that falls under Hall’s purview, bestows the awards to employers for exceptional support of employees who are also members of the reserve components.
“Thanks to each one of you for your support,” Hall told the award recipients.
Created in 1972, ESGR provides information and education for employers of National Guardsmen and reservists. Additionally, the agency can mediate potential disputes between employers and employees in the Guard or reserves.
Before the award presentations Hall discussed some recent Defense Department policy changes that, among other things, specify one-year mobilizations for reserve-component members. Before the rule change, Hall noted, Guardsmen and reservists were mobilized for 18 to 22 months of service.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates made the policy change because employers of Guardsmen and reservists were concerned that their employees were gone for too-lengthy periods of time. About 75,000 members of the National Guard and reserves are currently mobilized, he said.
The armed services now want “to spread the burden” of deployments, so as not to over-stress the active-duty force or the reserve components, he explained.
It’ll take a couple of years to establish more deployment predictability, Hall acknowledged, adding that Guard and reserve forces will now be trained and deployed as complete units, rather than being mobilized in “cobbled-up” fashion.
“What we have heard is, unit cohesion is vitally important, particularly to ground-maneuver forces. So, we’re going to mobilize as units,” Hall said, adding that he’d like employers to provide their input about the changes.
Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale is among this year’s southern Florida-region recipients of Above and Beyond awards. Luisa Gutman, executive director of human resources, was on hand to accept the award for the hospital.
“I think it’s the responsibility of all employers to support the armed services,” Gutman said, noting that five of the hospital’s employees are currently on active military duty.
Other recipients of this year’s Above and Beyond award are: Broward County Sheriff’s Office, the City of Fort Lauderdale, the City of Plantation, Lauderhill Police Department, Marine Industries Inc., Nova Southeastern University, Protective Products International, and SR Technologies Inc.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle accepted the award for his municipality. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office also received an Above and Beyond award in 2006. The seven award recipients also signed Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve 5-Star Statements of Support as a symbol of their rededicated support of employees in the Guard or reserve.
The Above and Beyond award is among a series of ESGR-sponsored honors for employers providing programs and policies that exceed requirements of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. USERRA specifies re-employment protection and other benefits for veterans and employees returning from military duty.
The National Committee for Employment Support of the Guard and Reserves’ more than 4,000 volunteers located across the United States and its territories perform “a terrific job,” Hall said, as advocates for good relations between employers and their military employees. The new ESGR chief, Executive Director Gordon Sumner Jr., was in attendance, Hall noted.
The award ceremony was run in conjunction with a discussion on defense issues featuring Hall; Army Reserve Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, commander of U.S. Army Reserve Command; and Air National Guard Lt. Gen. Craig R. McKinley, director of the Air National Guard, as panel members.
“Thanks for what you are doing for our soldiers,” Stultz told the employers.
Today’s Guard and reserves are now part of the operational force and is expected to mobilize and deploy on a regular basis, he noted.
Guard and reserve members contribute added value to the armed forces because of their diversified and unique skills from their civilian occupations, he said. “If we’re going to win this long war on terror, we’re going to have to depend on the (Guard and) Reserve as part of that force,” Stultz said.
Hall, Stultz and McKinley cited the importance of replenishing military equipment worn, damaged or destroyed during deployments to Afghanistan or Iraq. McKinley also highlighted the pressing need to replace old, outdated military aircraft with new models. “We’ve got to buy new airplanes,” he emphasized, noting the average age of military aircraft is now 24 years old. “We’ve got men and women flying bombers and tankers that are older than they are.”
Hall noted that worldwide restaurant chain McDonald’s kicked off National Military Appreciation Month through its annual “National Salute to America’s Heroes” that consists of “Fleet Week USA,” “McDonald’s Air and Sea Show” and other events held in the Fort Lauderdale area from late April into early May.
“This coming weekend, over 4 million people will be here to salute the men and women of the U.S. military and say thanks to them,” said Mickey Markoff, executive producer for the McDonald’s-sponsored program.
The National Salute to America’s Heroes is “the largest spectator event in the world,” Markoff said, noting the event is in its 13th year.
McDonald’s also is among the more than 250 businesses and organizations nationwide that participate in the Defense Department’s America Supports You program, which recognizes citizens’ support for military men and women and communicates that support to members of the U.S. armed forces at home and abroad.