GM to Receive Freedom Award for Support to Reservists
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 2007 The Defense Department is recognizing General Motors for its procedures and policies to support its mobilized reserve component employees.
The company, the largest car maker in America, will receive the Secretary of Defense Freedom Award. A total of 15 companies of all sizes will receive the award at during a ceremony at the Ronald Reagan Building here Sept. 12.
The company has about 20 reservists serving in Iraq and Afghanistan now, said Greg Martin, a GM spokesman here. Navy reservist Chris Shortridge nominated GM for the honor. Another GM employee, a soldier named Douglas Waite, also nominated GM for the award, but he is serving in Iraq and could not be reached for comment.
Shortridge, who works in GM’s plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., was called up and served in Mosul, Iraq, with the Army’s 4th Brigade Combat Team for nine months. He returned to Spring Hill in June. Shortridge is a first class petty officer who has been selected for promotion to chief petty officer. He says his job in civilian life is “to just build cars.”
Shortridge said GM’s policies really helped his family out while he was deployed. He doesn’t live near a military base, and has found it hard to find providers who accept the military’s health care plan.
“Tricare is great if you are from around a military base, but if you are deployed from suburban America, it can be more of a pain than it’s worth,” he said in an interview. “The doctors here have no idea what Tricare is, and are often not set up to accept it.”
GM continues its employees’ health care insurance while they are deployed, allowing the families to continue with a familiar process.
“I was flying from Kuwait into Baghdad, and I hadn’t heard from my wife, which was kind of strange,” Shortridge said. “Turns out, my daughter had appendicitis and had to have an emergency operation. Because I had the same insurance, my wife was able to get her right into the hospital and there were no hassles, no headaches.”
GM also makes up the difference between military pay and their regular wages for its workers called to the colors.
“We don’t think it’s right that one of our workers should lose financially for reserve duty,” Martin said. “So we make up any difference between military pay and their civilian wages.”
GM also guarantees reservists their job will be waiting for them when they return.
“It may sound trite, but it’s the right thing to do,” Martin said. “We try to match what we say with actions, and we do value our employees.”
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 understand employee eligibility and job entitlements, employer obligations, benefits and remedies under the act.