By Donna DeLong
Special to the Aroostook Republican
This month marks the 40th anniversary of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) program. This Department of Defense (DOD) initiative brings attention to the incredible services of the National Guard and Reserve members and the extraordinary support their employers have shown for more than 10 years of combat operations and historic natural disasters.
The DOD created the organization in 1972 due to the nation’s ability to maintain an all-volunteer military after the end of the draft.
The relationship between Guard and Reserve members and their employers is more important today than ever, according to Greg Small, executive director of ESGR’s Maine committee. The National Weather Service in Caribou, for example, has always been very supportive in employing Guard and Reserve members, he said.
Richard Okulski, meteorologist in charge, commented on the level of skill that Guard and Reserve members have that gives them a special skill set. When asked how he handles employees going on leave to serve, he replied, “We do not hire anyone to take over their position while they are gone, even if they are gone for a long period of time. We handle the position in-house by other employees with a similar skill set or who have moved up to a higher level and will assume duties or split duties among the staff.”
An important part of the philosophy of the National Weather Service is to give the employees the reassurance that they will have a position when they return, no matter how long their deployment may be.
Anticipating the end of both the Vietnam War and the draft, the ESGR was established to foster a culture of respect, cooperation and understanding between National Guard members, Reservists, and their employers. Today, the agency’s work is more important than ever, as employers share their military employees with our country during its longest period of continuous combat operations and a series of historic natural disasters.
The United States could not meet its national security demands without its Guard and Reserve members, who in turn rely on the support of their employees, Small said.
Caribou’s Cary Medical Center fosters an atmosphere of family and they look after the families when Guard and Reserve people leave for their weekend of training a month, two weeks, or a long-term deployment.
Kris Doody, registered nurse and chief executive officer at the health care provider, has a father who was retired from the National Guard and this has embodied itself into her upbringing and she has incorporated that into the Cary organization. In the surgical department, for example, they had an employee leave for deployment overseas. The department got together to throw a birthday party for his wife who had a baby while he was deployed. They continued to look after the family and offered support while he was away.
This is just one of many ways that Cary Medical Center contributes to hiring Guard and Reservists and supporting the defense and safety of our people stateside and in countries around the world in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. They also share the same belief as the National Weather Service, that Guard and Reserve people have the values and work ethic that fits in well with their hospital.
Small said ESGR’s committee in Maine offers information and mediation services to Guard and Reserve members and their employers. The agency also supports a number of events and initiatives to match Guard and Reserve members with employers looking to hire, and also shows appreciation to supportive military employers by recognizing their efforts through ESGR’s awards program. This year, 11 nominations were submitted from Guard and Reservist people in Maine for the Secretary of Defense Employers Support Freedom Award, the nation’s highest honor for supportive employers.
ESGR advocates relevant initiatives, recognizes outstanding support, increases awareness of applicable laws and resolves conflict between service members and employers, Principal to ESGR’s mission is encouraging employment of Guard and Reserve members who bring integrity, global perspective and proven leadership to the civilian workforce.
For more information, contact Small at (207) 430-5891.