DoD Award Salutes Employers Who Support Guard, Reserve
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2005 American businesses "thrive in the climate of freedom that we have," a senior corporate executive being lauded for supporting citizen soldiers said at an Oct. 14 gathering of executives at the Pentagon.
Executives meet with Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld at the Pentagon Oct. 14. Fifteen U.S. businesses received the 2005 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award for their efforts in support of employees in the National Guard or Reserve. The award ceremony was Oct. 15 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington. Photo by Robert Ward
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Since U.S. entrepreneurial freedom is preserved by the efforts of America's military members, U.S. businesses that support their employees who serve in the Guard or Reserve are "only doing our duty," William K. Wray, executive vice president and chief information officer of Citizens Financial Group, said.
Wray's company was among 15 U.S. businesses that received this year's Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award for exceptional support of their employees in the National Guard or Reserve. The award ceremony was held Oct. 15 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel here.
The National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a DoD agency, manages the award process. The award recognizes U.S. employers that rise above the requirements of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. USSERA helps Guard and Reserve members understand employee eligibility and job entitlements, employer obligations, benefits and remedies under the act. Employees nominated employers for the award.
Employers who receive the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award "represent the best of the best," Thomas F. Hall, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, said. The recognized companies "care for their employees (and) they're patriots, just as much as the people fighting in the global war on terrorism," Hall said.
Wray said his firm is "happy to do anything that we can" to support its employees in the Guard or Reserve. For example, Citizens provides leave to employees who are also military family members so they can visit with their spouses before they deploy overseas, Wray said.
"We realized it was really about the families left behind and trying to take care of them," Wray said, noting his company also provides pay differential and other benefits for its employees in the Guard and Reserve.
The Los Angeles Police Department held a summer picnic for the families of its police officers in the Guard or Reserve, Sharon Papa, an assistant chief with the department, said. The LAPD also created a military liaison officer position to ensure that police officers in the Guard and Reserve continue to receive their benefits when they're called up for active duty, she said.
The Los Angeles police serve both their home community and the nation, Papa said. That's why "we felt that we owned them to take care of their families" while they are deployed, she said.
Mark C. Treanor, general counsel and head of the legal division for Wachovia Corp., said it's important to remember that "companies are made up of people, and America is made up of people."
Wachovia also provides full pay and benefits for its employees in the Guard or Reserve who are called up for active duty, Treanor said, and Wachovia's employees also voluntarily look out for the welfare of the deployed servicemembers' families.
That "seems like the least we can do for the people who are taking care of the rest of us," Treanor said.
Donald Esmond, senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc., said his company "is certainly proud" of its employees in the Guard and Reserve. Esmond said his company appoints representatives to look after the families of employees who've been called up on active duty for overseas deployments.
The state of Delaware also was recognized with an Employer Support Freedom Award this year. Mark T. Brainard, chief of staff to Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, said, "You just can't do enough" to support the men and women in the Guard and Reserve.
Another ESGR award recipient, Ryland Homes, aggressively acts to hire former military members, said Kipling W. Scott, the company's executive vice president and president for its north-central region.
"We've never had a bad experience with respect to the military recruitment process," Scott said. He added, "We can't get enough" former military members.
South Dakota State University President Peggy G. Miller said her school has two deans who were activated for military duty.
South Dakota State has shipped textbooks so its students now serving in Baghdad can continue their studies, Miller said. Deployed students in the Guard and Reserve also can sell all their text books back at full price, she said.
"I think we're all humbled" by being recognized by the Defense Department, said Thomas H. Holcom Jr., president of Pioneer Financial Services Inc. Holcom said his company is now supplying the spouses of deployed employees with video e-mail capability.
"We've found that not many people know about ESGR," Holcom said. "Our job at this point is to expand that knowledge base."
Another ESGR award recipient, the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, deployed a bomb-detection dog to war along with its human handler, the department's secretary, Richard L. Stalder, said.
"The public sector has an ability and a responsibility, also," to spread the word about employer support for the Guard and Reserve, Stalder said.
Joseph H. Wehrle, president of USAA's Property and Casualty Insurance Group, said many of his company's employees "are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters" of deployed active duty military members, as well as Guardsmen and Reservists. Consequently, USAA sponsors quarterly luncheon meetings for such employees, Wehrle said. "They're working under very stressful conditions right now," he noted, due to concern for the welfare of deployed loved ones.
Managers across the company are "made aware that these folks are under some additional stress," Wehrle said. Meetings between affected employees and their managers "are cathartic," he said.
"Our programs are very similar to the ones just described," said Jan B. Packwood, CEO of the Idaho Power Company, an electric utility company serving southern Idaho and eastern Oregon. Packwood said his company provides salary differentials and continued health care benefits for its employees in the Guard and Reserve who are called up to active duty.
Packwood said he takes a personal interest in the welfare of his deployed employees, noting that both of his sons are active duty Army officers serving in Iraq.
"When the Guard goes to war, they take Main Street with them," Packwood pointed out. "It's been a real honor and a privilege to receive recognition" from the Department of Defense.
"We were absolutely floored that we got this award. We did not believe we'd done anything special," said Richard N. Holwill, vice president of public policy for Alticor Inc., formerly Amway. Alticor provides pay differential and continuation of benefits for its employees in the Guard and Reserve when they're called up for active duty.
Alticor takes care of its employees serving in the Guard and Reserve "because they are our friends, our colleagues, our family," Holwill said.
During their Oct. 14 Pentagon visit, the award recipients met with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. The group was also greeted by David H. Janes, the national chairman for the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. ESGR is a DoD agency established in 1972 to gain and maintain active support from all public and private employers for the 1.2 million members of the National Guard and Reserve.
ESGR also sponsors an awards program for employers who provide exceptional support to their employees in the reserve components, Janes said. However, he noted, the Secretary of Defense's award "is the crème de' la' crème" of all the employer-support awards.
Janes said 1,492 employers were nominated by their employees to receive the 2005 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. That number was whittled down to 15 recipients. He said there are likely "thousands" of other employers eligible to receive the award.
"I'm hopeful as we go into this coming year that we can get the word out to all of our Reserve and National Guard people to take a look at how they've been treated by their employers and to nominate them," Janes said.
Recipients of the 2005 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award are:
- Alticor Inc., Ada, Mich.,
- Citizens Financial Group, Providence, R.I.,
- Eaton Corp., Cleveland,
- Enterprise Rent-a-Car, St. Louis,
- IDACORP, Boise, Idaho,
- Los Angeles Police Department,
- Louisiana Department of Safety and Corrections, Baton Rouge, La.,
- Pioneer Financial Services, Kansas City, Mo.,
- Ryland Homes, Calabasas, Calif.,
- Sears, Roebuck and Co., Hoffman Estates, Ill.,
- South Dakota State University, Brookings, S.D.,
- State of Delaware, Dover, Del.,
- Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc., Torrance, Calif.,
- USAA, San Antonio, and
- Wachovia Corp., Charlotte, N.C.
In proclaiming Oct. 16-22 as "National Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve Week," President Bush emphasized the value of such support. "Employers play a critical role in helping the men and women of the National Guard and Reserve carry out their mission," the president's proclamation reads. "In offices, schools, hospitals, and other workplaces, employers provide time off, pay, health-care benefits, and job security to their Guard and Reserve employees. These patriotic efforts allow our men and women in uniform to focus on their military assignments and help strengthen our country. Americans are grateful to these employers for putting the needs of our citizens and our country's safety and security first."