The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) is the only civilian lead program at the Department of Defense, that works to promote an understanding of the National Guard and Reserve components and to gain employer and community support through programs, personnel policies, and practices that encourage employee service in the National Guard and Reserves.
ESGR was created in 1972 to promote cooperation between reservists and their civilian employers in the wake of the draft being revoked and the US military moving towards an all-volunteer force. Richard Nixon was the first president to sign an ESGR Statement of Support, pledging his backing for Guard and Reserve employees.
However the National Guard and Reserve Services are no longer the same forces that they were in the 1972. Back then National Guard and Reserve duty typically meant one weekend a month and 2 weeks of active training a year, which was a minor inconvenience to employers. However, now the Reserve Components are nearly half of the Total Force today. After the events of 9/11, Guard and Reserve soldiers began facing multiple long deployments to battlefields all over the world. When not deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan these forces also can find themselves called up by the Emergency Management Division for disaster relief.
“The old stereo type of weekend warriors is no longer accurate,” said John Patterson, Washington State’s ESGR Chairman. “National Guard and Reserve soldiers serve side by side with active duty units all over the world. Their deployments have not only impacted the soldiers, and their families, but employers too.”
“What often makes National Guard and Reserve soldiers appealing to employers – is their leadership, specialized skills, and discipline. However, military deployments are acutely felt by the employer when losing often-key employees to active duty call up,” said Joel Scott Washington’s ESGR Outreach Director. “It is important for our Citizen Soldiers to know that their jobs are protected when they are deployed so that they can focus on their mission at hand and not be distracted about how they will support their families when they return.”
The current strength of the Guard and Reserve in Washington State is approximately 18,000 with the majority of population located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Washington.
The Washington ESGR Committee is headquartered at Camp Murray, Washington to serve the state. There are nearly 100 ESGR volunteers in the Washington State Committee that are a part of our national committee of over 4500 volunteers. These volunteers help ESGR accomplish its three core missions:
- Employer Outreach – ESGR offers employer programs such as VIP Boss lifts, employer briefings, “Breakfast with the Boss” (speaking to community business organizations), and job fairs in local areas. These programs provide insight into the duties performed by their employees in the Guard or Reserve while on duty. For employers who want to express their support of Citizen Soldiers, ESGR offers a Statement of Support program where employers can sign a pledge to support the military service of their employees.
Simultaneously, ESGR offers a progressive awards program that Guard and Reserve members can nominate their employer for a support award. The primary awards are the Patriot Award and Above and Beyond Award. Also, a spouse of a deployed service member can submit their employer for awards recognition. ESGR recognizes the special needs and sacrifices made by military spouses, as well as their employers. The Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award is the highest award give by the U.S. Government to employers for exceptional support of their employees serving in the National Guard or Reserve. Therefore every year the prestigious Secretary of Defense Freedom Award is presented to 15 highly selected employers from across the United States and four territories for their outstanding support.
- Military Outreach – ESGR volunteers provide yearly briefings to all the National Guard and Reserve Component units in the state. The briefings inform the service members of their rights and responsibilities under federal law, known as USERRA. Volunteers also provide briefings to service members facing and returning from deployments, advising them about their employment rights upon return. ESGR provides other resources to service members, such as pre-deployment tips, check lists and sample letters to assist them in their service.
- Ombudsman – ESGR informs and educates service members and their civilian employers regarding their rights and responsibilities governed by the Uniformed Services Employment Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). ESGR does not enforce USERRA, but serves as a free resource for employers and service members.
ESGR also mediates disputes between an employer and employees who are in the military. Specially-trained Ombudsmen are available to assist members of the Guard and Reserve in resolving disputes with their civilian employers related to military service in the uniformed services through neutral and impartial mediation.
ESGR has more than 4500 volunteers that serve in 54 committees throughout the United States. To learn more about ESGR or how to support you local Guard and Reserve soldiers you can contact – http://esgr.mil/
For a workplace issue, conflict or questions call the Customer Service Center to speak with a representative at 800-336-4590 or email OSD.USERRA@mail.mil.