Nevada Air Guard Chief Cites Employer for Superb Support
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 27, 2007 Nevada Air National Guard commander Brig. Gen. Robert V. Fitch said he couldn’t perform his military job -- sometimes requiring weeks of overseas travel -- without the superb support he receives from his civilian employer, Sierra Pacific Resources.
The company is among 15 businesses and organizations selected to receive this year’s Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. Fitch nominated Sierra Pacific Resources for the annual award, which honors businesses and organizations that provide exemplary support for employees in the National Guard or reserves.
When not performing Air Guard duty Fitch lives and works in Reno as a policy manager for electricity and natural gas provider Sierra Pacific Power Company, a subsidiary of Sierra Pacific Resources that is based in Las Vegas.
Fitch doesn’t lose any civilian pay or benefits when he’s deployed on military missions. And his employer “has always been extremely gracious as far as the amount of time I take off” to attend to military duties, he added.
“I can be gone on military leave and be assured of full pay,” Fitch said. “That’s a huge benefit.”
Sierra Pacific Resources’ President and Chief Executive Officer Michael W. Yackira said his company is honored to receive the Freedom Award. Supporting employees in the Guard or reserves “is the right thing to do,” he said. Yackira said his firm also employs another senior-level officer, Brig. Gen. Francis P. Gonzales, the commander of Nevada’s Army National Guard.
“People who sacrifice their lives for our country, I think, deserve the kind of treatment that we’re giving them,” Yackira said. “I don’t think this should be out of the ordinary, but should be the norm.”
Having the ability “to take off at a drop of a hat and travel halfway around the world” to tend to military business is much-appreciated, Fitch said. He said he believes his company deserves the Freedom Award because it goes “above and beyond” to support him.
Fitch has traveled several times to far-away Turkmenistan as the primary military representative for Nevada’s participation in the National Guard State Partnership Program. The program is managed by the National Guard Bureau in conjunction with the U.S. State Department. It seeks to establish ties with participating nations’ defense ministries and other government agencies to improve bilateral relations. Nevada is now sharing its agricultural and firefighting expertise with Turkmenistan’s government, Fitch said.
“Turkmenistan had said, ‘We’d like to increase our cotton-crop production,’” Fitch recalled.
Fitch said his employer’s assistance, which includes checking up on his family when he is away, makes his military job much easier to perform. “I know the power company is looking out for me and my family,” he said.
The Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award recognizes U.S. employers that rise above the requirements of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. The National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Defense Department agency, manages the award process. ESGR assists Guard and reserve members and their employers in understanding employee eligibility and job entitlements, employer obligations, benefits and remedies under the act.
Yackira will accept the Freedom Award on behalf of his company during a formal ceremony here Sept. 12.