Charles L. Cragin, principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs and Hjalma E. Johnson, president of the American Bankers Association (ABA), signed a statement of support Tuesday, pledging the ABA and its 6,000 corporate members to support their employees who also are members of the National Guard and Reserve.
The statement also declares ABA's recognition that the National Guard and Reserve are essential to the strength of our nation and the well being of our communities.
"It is critical to the National Guard and Reserve for important employer such groups such as the ABA to make this kind of commitment," said Cragin. "The support and sacrifice of America's business community has been, and continues to be enormous."
The ABA joins thousands of other employers and agencies who already have signed similar statements of support, promising not to deny employment or limit career opportunities because of service in the Guard and Reserve, and to grant leaves of absence for military training without sacrificing vacation.
Cragin praised the ABA leaders for their patriotism in supporting National Guard and Reserve personnel called to perform military missions. He said the military counts on the Reserve forces to prepare for and carry out a wide range of operations including contingency operations in Bosnia, Kosovo and Southwest Asia; humanitarian assistance in Africa; counterdrug operations in Central and South America; joint exercises in Korea; and firefighting in the western United States.
The 1.3 million men and women who serve in the seven Reserve forces - Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Naval Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Coast Guard Reserve, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve - represent one half of our nation's total military might.
Today they contribute 13 million duty days to active duty military missions and exercises around the world, equivalent to adding 35,000 personnel to the active forces. The Department of Defense cannot sustain operations anywhere in the world today without calling on the National Guard and Reserve.
"Employer support is vital to a strong national defense," said Thomas C. Irwin, national chair for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) and participant in the signing ceremony. "By counting on the support of employers, we can continue to count on their employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve."
ESGR, an agency of the Department of Defense, oversees the Statement of Support program among others. ESGR's mission is to minimize conflicts between part-time military duties and full-time civilian career responsibilities. ESGR accomplishes this through a network of 4,500 volunteers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands, plus a small full-time national staff.
For more information, please call Army National Guard Col. Terry Jones at (703) 693-8617, or visit the ESGR web site at http://esgr.org or the Reserve Affairs web site at http://dod.mil/ra .