Guard Partnership With Ambulance Service Yields Mutual Benefits
By Sara Moore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 2008 The Regional Emergency Medical Service Authority, with headquarters in Reno, Nev., has a close relationship with the local National Guard air ambulance unit, so it’s no surprise that the company excels at supporting its employees who serve in the military.
REMSA, a ground and air ambulance service with 300 employees, is one of 15 companies receiving the 2008 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award for outstanding support of its employees in the National Guard or Reserve.
Because REMSA and the air ambulance unit have similar functions, they often collaborate on training and share personnel, said Mike Williams, vice president of REMSA. “They recruit our people; we recruit their people,” he said.
REMSA has six employees who are deploying to Afghanistan in September with the National Guard, and several other employees in the Air Force Reserve, Williams said. On a day-to-day basis, the company works with the National Guard unit on training schedules and trains with the Guardsmen. REMSA has put on classes for members of the National Guard unit, and the National Guard has loaned the company helicopters for training, he said.
REMSA also works closely with the Air Force Reserve medical unit in Reno, as the commander of the unit is a REMSA employee, Williams said. REMSA lets the Air Force Reserve members use their facilities for all their weekend training, he said.
When an employee is deployed, REMSA steps up its support for the employee and his family, Williams said. The company pays a salary differential to make up the difference between active-duty pay and the employee’s regular salary, and continues the entire benefits package, including life insurance, health coverage and use of a staff psychologist.
Williams noted that the continuation of health coverage for families is especially important, since there isn’t a nearby military installation for the families to go to for medical care.
Williams served 20 years in the Air Force, both active duty and reserve, and was deployed to the Middle East for operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, so he is drawing on his own experiences to help his employees. He has enlisted a number of REMSA employees to send daily e-mails to deployed employees, keeping them abreast of the happenings in the company. The company also includes the families of deployed employees in all functions, such as picnics and Christmas parties, and is working on getting life-sized posters of the deployed employees to display at the events, he said.
Efforts like these are important because they keep the employees involved in the organization and remind them of the “real world” back home, Williams said. “We want them to know that even though they’re gone, they’re still a member of the organization, and will be when they get back,” he said.
“When you’re deployed overseas, you want to know there is a real world back home, and you stay grounded in the insanity that you’re doing by remembering that there’s a reason behind it, and it’s your family and your coworkers and your friends and everybody else,” he continued. “So it’s important we do the e-mail; it keeps them connected with that real world.”
To help prepare the families of the six employees who are set to deploy, Williams is organizing a barbecue at his house so he and his wife can talk to them about their experiences, he said.
Having employees with military experience is a great benefit to REMSA, Williams said. In addition to its National Guard and Reserve personnel, REMSA actively recruits medics coming off of active duty and pays for their civilian training and credentialing.
“They’re good, experienced candidates that usually fit well into the training scheme,” he said. “They come with a great set of work ethics that kind of sets an example for others to follow.”
Williams said that he and the rest of the REMSA leadership were surprised and excited to hear about the Freedom Award. They never really felt like they deserved recognition for their efforts, he said. “This is what we do anyway,” he said of the company’s support activities. “It’s just kind of what we do, and we didn’t realize that not everybody did that.”
REMSA will receive the Freedom Award along with 14 other companies in a ceremony Sept. 18 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center here. The Freedom Award was instituted in 1996 under the auspices of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve to recognize exceptional support from the employer community.