Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves, a division of the Department of Defense, solicits nominations from service members of the National Guard and Reservists from all branches of the military. These nominations are reviewed for recognition of their efforts to ease the burden on employees as they are deployed or take leave for routine training.
In presentations made Friday, Oct. 15, and Thursday, Oct. 21, supervisors were awarded a plaque for their actions. At CMC, Director of Medical Surgical Services Tricia Gulasa was nominated by Spc. Branden Nelson, CMC patient care technician. From Shaw, Plant 15 Manager Jim Andrews and Senior Human Resource Manager Adam Longino were nominated by Staff Sgt. Donald Aring and his wife, Lisa Aring.
Making the presentations and representing the ESGR was Capt. Hayden Collins. Describing the mission of the ESGR and relaying the comical story regarding an Army wife needing assistance during her husband's deployment, the laughter lightened the mood surrounding a serious issue.
"ESGR is an organization that was put together specifically to recognize employers' and individuals' support of the guard and reserve during deployments and not during deployments," Collins said. "I will let you know from firsthand knowledge that every minor item around the house when your spouse is gone inflates and can become major issues. Even the smallest items like a washer and dryer not working, things not functioning well, can really get blown out of proportion."
Attesting to the domestic realities illustrated by Collins was Lisa Aring, wife of Staff Sgt. Donald Aring and fellow Shaw employee. She and her husband both extended their gratitude to their supervisors, while in turn those being recognized had only appreciation for the service to country given by Aring.
"These guys got the Patriot Award because they went above and beyond what any other employer does because they made sure that whenever I took off work to deal with a military issue, like him coming home or to go down to Fort [McPherson] to fill out medical things for the Army, they always let me off for what I needed to do," Lisa Aring said. "In this economy like it is, that was such a relief to me. Because I didn't have to worry about if I got sick [that] all my vacation points were gone because I was dealing with military issues -- and that helped a lot."
With 18 years of service, Aring has been deployed twice since he joined the National Guard in 2004 and has always had a job when he returned -- that was just one of the things motivating the nomination.
"Both of my deployments, I've worked here. The last one was to Afghanistan and the one prior to that was Iraq," Aring said. "The big thing is knowing that I have a job to come back to. A lot of people didn't, a lot of people when they came back from Afghanistan found out they didn't have a job."
As plant manager, Andrews oversees a large number of employees but expressed his sincere gratitude for the sacrifices of servicemen and women. Humble in acceptance of the award, Andrews, as all the recent recipients, deferred the recognition to those serving their country's call.
"For me, it kind of goes beyond employer and co-worker. These are our neighbors, people that live in our community and put so much at risk to go and fight for our country -- I mean, how could you do anything less? It inspires you to want to help out because you know they're doing it for you," Andrews said.
At CMC, Gulasa was nominated by the first soldier under her supervision in her current position. Thankful for the honor, she praised Nelson for his service to country. Her nomination came for her conscious decisions in scheduling employees in a manner that respects Nelson's commitment to the National Guard.
"He's serving our country and there's a lot of people that serve our country and don't get recognized and don't get time off to go to drill when they need to. We should be thankful for him that he's helping our country," Gulasa said. "There's a policy in place that we give people time off to do drill but if they need that weekend off for drill we don't have to necessarily give them extra days to make up their time. So I try to make sure that he's scheduled his days he needs to get a paycheck to make a living still."
Another constant theme heard throughout from recipients is their regard for the nominating soldiers' ability as an employee. Supervisors being recognized consistently referred to the performance of their employees.
"Branden is a very hard worker, he's very dedicated -- not just to our facility but also to his country. Any time they ask for volunteers to go to drill or to go do something for the National Guard, Branden volunteers. He's a hard worker, he never calls in -- [he is] very polite and courteous with everybody. And everybody loves him, all the staff love him, the patients love him, and for his age he is very respectful and mature."
Similarly, Longino spoke to the inherent qualities of veterans and those currently in the Guard and Reserve. Longino was recognized specifically along with Shaw and Plant 15 earlier this year by the Georgia Department of Labor for their efforts to hire and retain veterans. Shaw was named 2009 Employer of the Year for these actions; the plant received acclaim for supporting a coworker on special leave with a military band and Longino was named an honorary veteran from the U.S. military.
"As a human resources manager, your military folks are some of your best. They understand discipline, they understand hard work, they get excellent training with the military, and they're essentially doing two jobs. Beyond just being thankful for having somebody being out there defending the country -- you know freedom isn't free -- but beyond that these are the kind of people you want to employ anyway. These are prize employees. Why wouldn't you go above and beyond? It just makes good business sense," Longino said.
In closing, Collins thanked again Shaw managers in attendance as he asked them to continue their support of America's armed forces.
"Chances are most of our troops are going to redeploy in the spring," Collins said, addressing a Shaw management team. "And the example you've set as an organization and individuals, I hope you continue for the rest of this engagement until its completion, and I will let you know personally from my five deployments that nothing is more important in combat than having the least amount of things on your mind at one time -- and knowing that your employer is supporting your family and you have friends at home is one less thing you have to worry about in combat."