Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve?consists of more than 4,500 volunteers who promote a culture that values the employment and military service of members of the National Guard and Reserve. How can civilian employers specifically better support their employees in military service? ?With M. Alex Baird, Executive Director?Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.
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Interview recorded on October 21, 2016.
Traynham: The National Guard and Reserve consists entirely of citizen volunteers. These soldiers face different challenges than their active-duty peers. For the next few minutes, we'll discuss how civilian employers can better support their employees in military service. Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Robert Traynham. Joining me today is Alex Baird. He is the Executive Director of the Employers Support of the Guard and Reserve. Alex, welcome to the program.
Baird: Thanks for having me.
Traynham: It's good to see you. I think for the benefit of our viewers that are watching this program, it might be important to better understand and explain the difference between a reservist and active-duty personnel. What is the difference?
Baird: The big difference is I spent 24 years on active duty, and what that meant was I got up every day, I wore the uniform, and I lived in base housing many times. And so my entire life was spent being in the military.
Traynham: In other words, that was your full-time job.
Baird: That was my full time job. A guard and reservist -- they're part-time, so when they're in uniform, they are a member of the United States military. But when they're out of uniform, they're a United States citizen and they're not considered part of the military.
Traynham: So, Alex, it sounds like they have two full-time jobs.
Baird: They do. Now, normally, they do two days a week, or they do a weekend a month, and then they do two weeks a year, and that's their annual training. But otherwise, they're a U.S. citizen.
Traynham: And it sounds like that can be -- look, it's very stressful being a full-time active-duty support staff in military personnel, there's no doubt about it. But I can't even imagine what it feels like to have two full-time jobs not only for the reservist, but also for the family member, but also for the employer. Let's talk for a few moments about the employer. What programs are in place to assist the employer, but also the employee who's a reservist?
Baird: Really, ours is the program. Employers Support of the Guard and Reserve was established in 1972, and our job is basically to keep both sides happy. We have a program that educates the military member so that they understand their rights and responsibilities. And by "responsibilities," what we mean is they have an obligation to tell their employers what training is coming up and to give them a lot of notice when they're going to be deployed so that they don't wait till the last minute and say, "Oh, by the way, I've known for four months I'm going to be deployed, but I'm just telling you now."
Traynham: My understanding, Alex, is that you all have a program called Above and Beyond that really does highlight and showcase, if you will, some of the best practices and great work that's out there. Can you give us some examples?
Baird: Well, we have an awards program that starts with a patriot award and then progresses to above and beyond, and then the ultimate is the Employers Support Freedom Award. That is the Secretary of Defense's highest award that they give to a civilian employer. There's been over 233 awards given. Normally, there are no more than 15 awards given per year, and they're in the categories of small business, large business, and public sector.
Traynham: And walk us through another program that you have called Boss Lifts. What exactly is that?
Baird: Boss Lifts are a way that we can show an employer what a military member goes through on an average day.
Traynham: So a day in the life, if you will.
Baird: Yes. One of our most popular, of course, is to go up in an airplane because everybody likes going up in a military airplane, and we'll take them up on a refuel or let them see a fighter plane being refueled. But some of them could be as simple as just seeing what it's like to put on kevlar and a pack and see how it is to wear the military uniform.
Traynham: And I can only imagine that the employers come away from that saying, "Wow. Wow that this person is doing this a couple days a month, wow, a person is trained to do this whenever the Governor or the President needs their assistance, and wow, this person not only is doing this part-time, but they're also perhaps working for me part-time or full-time." So I assume it's a huge awakening moment for everyone concerned.
Baird: It is, and it's also the way we get most of our volunteers. USGR has 4500 volunteers, and these are the folks who run most of these Boss Lifts. And we're surprised that when we have these Boss Lifts, usually, we get four or five volunteers out of it. They're just that excited about the program.
Traynham: And again, Alex, for the folks that are watching on their smart device or perhaps at home or wherever they may be, how can they get involved? Can they nominate someone? Can they nominate a friend or neighbor or spouse, if, in fact, they know someone that's in the reserves but probably is a little bit too humble and not speaking up for themselves?
Baird: Well, as far as the award system we have is for employers, and the only one who can nominate an employer is the actual guard or reserve member themselves or their spouse.
Traynham: I see, and is there a website or a telephone number where they should go?
Baird: Yes. Anyone who has a question about the Uniform Services Employment or Reemployment Rights Act or anybody who has any questions at all about the Guard and Reserve and employment should call 1-800-336-4590, or they can go to our website, which is esgr.mil.
Traynham: Alex Baird, thank you very much for your service. Thank you for all that you do, and, of course, thank you for all of the folks out there that wear our country's uniform, and thank you for joining us for this edition of "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Robert Traynham. Have a great day, everybody. We'll see you next time. Bye-bye.