Guard, Reserve Employer-Support Agency Gains New Chief
Gordon Sumner Jr. is the new executive director for the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.

MIAMI (Army News Service, May 7, 2007) - Maintaining good communications with civilian employers of National Guardsmen and Reservists is a major component of mission success at the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, the agency's new chief said in an interview.

Gordon Sumner Jr., a retired Army lieutenant colonel, was appointed as the committee's new executive director March 29.

It is critical, Mr. Sumner emphasized, that ESGR maintain open lines of communication with employers of Guard members and Reservists, regardless of where they're located.

Created in 1972, the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve is a Defense Department agency that provides information and education for employers of members of the reserve components. In addition, the agency can mediate potential disputes between employers and their employees in the Guard or Reserves.

The national committee's more than 4,200 volunteers at 56 field committees across the United States and its territories serve as advocates for good relations between employers and their military employees, Sumner said during an interview with American Forces Press Service during a National Military Appreciation Month event at Opa Locka Airport here on May 3.

"Volunteers are absolutely the most important piece of this organization," Mr. Sumner said. "Our job is to get that information out through an outreach program that is robust, timely and strongly supported, as well as keeping lines of communication that go both ways."

ESGR has logged more than 282,000 hours of volunteer work since the start of the current fiscal year, Mr. Sumner said.

Increased communication and interface between ESGR's Arlington, Va., headquarters group, its field committees, and employers of Guardsmen and Reservists is paying off, Mr. Sumner said, citing a decreasing caseload between ESGR ombudsmen and employers.

Mr. Sumner traveled to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to attend a May 3 awards ceremony and symposium with local employers. Seven southern Florida employers received Above and Beyond awards, one of a series of honors the committee bestows to employers providing programs and policies that exceed the requirements of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. USERRA specifies re-employment protection and other benefits for veterans and employees returning from military duty.

The seven awardees also signed ESGR 5-Star Statements of Support as symbols of their rededicated support of employees in the Guardsmen or reservists.

"The ombudsman cases are declining rapidly as we grow the Statement of Support (program)," Mr. Sumner pointed out. Today, he said, there are only 130 ombudsman-support cases across the country, compared to thousands experienced in past years.

As the war against global terrorism continues, it's more important than ever "to ensure employers are supporting" their employees in the National Guard or reserves, Mr. Sumner said.

(Gerry J. Gilmore writes for the American Forces Press Service.)

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