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ESGR supports employees of state’s guardsmen, soldiers

Brigadier General Russell Summerlin, USA (ret.) has a message to share with Alabamians: The National Guard and Reserve members deserve all citizens’ respect and support. And employers who support “citizen soldiers” serving their country in times of peace and war, deserve a pat on the back and a chance to gain a greater understanding of how these individuals serve their nation.

Summerlin spoke to members of the Greenville Kiwanis Club Tuesday about the Employer Support of The Guard and Reserve (ESGR), an organization that supports America’s employers who share their employees with the nation.

“No matter how you feel about the war, I believe everyone here supports our soldiers. The job each one does is important,” Summerlin, who serves as the ESGR’s state chairman, said.

“Next to their families, we support the most important people left behind during war time – their bosses.”

It is a sacrifice for all involved, he said.

The Guard and Reserve make up almost 50 percent of the armed forces in the U.S.

Many employers with Guard and Reserve members are small businesses with only a handful of employees, and areas like law enforcement are particularly hard hit when losing any in their ranks to overseas military duty, Summerlin said. “With police officers required to attend academy and undergo special training, it really can be hard filling their places.”

He also pointed out that during the current war, Guard members have not been deployed for the duration, but by units in a piece-meal fashion, with some members deployed as many as three separate times.

The ESGR is a Department of Defense organization is made up of 4400 volunteers in all 50 states and overseas. The program provides free education, consultation and if necessary, mediation for employers of Guard and Service employees.

The organization also looks to reward employers who are stand out in their support of their citizen soldiers through a program called “Boss Lift,” in which Dr. Kathy Murphy of the Butler County School System has participated.

Citizen soldiers have to nominate an employer to be a part of the program, which has the goal of giving employers a first hand look at what they do while serving the military.

Employers get to fly in Chinooks and Blackhawks, see mid-air refuelings in KC-135 Tankers, tour aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines, and other insightful and exciting activities during Boss Lift.

Murphy said her Boss Lift trip to Norfolk, Virginia was one of the “most memorable and enjoyable of my life.”

According to Summerlin, Boss Lift is the ESGR’s “way of saying ‘thank you’ to employers for being so understanding and supportive of our members of the Guards and Reserves.”