By Staff Sgt. Erica JarosAugust 7, 2019
EASTOVER, S.C. -- Members serving in the National Guard and Reserves are referred to as Citizen-Soldiers, due to their ability to serve in diverse civilian roles during the week and join their military units for training throughout the year.
These service members are periodically called on for overseas deployments and, in times of natural disasters, also called on at home to support first responders.
Service members and their families are not the only ones who have had to learn to be flexible during these times of duty. Civilian employers also need to adjust for training and deployments. In recognition of the support these employers provide to their service member employees, the South Carolina National Guard hosted the Employer Support of Guard and Reserve (ESGR) "boss lift" at McEntire Joint National Guard Base in Eastover, South Carolina, July 24.
"This allows them to see what our [Guard members] do when they take off for a weekend, week, or a year for a deployment," said Eli Wishart, South Carolina ESGR chair member. "Our goal is to help them better understand what the Guard and Reserve do."
During the event, attendees saw equipment displays and talked to an Air National Guard F-16 pilot to learn about the training, equipment, and everything that goes into getting the jet in the air and safely back to the hangar. They ended the day with a flight on an Air Force Reserve C-17 Globemaster III based at Joint Base Charleston.
"Learning about the time and cost of training was very interesting," said Ray Burr, Republic National Distributing Company of South Carolina LLC representative.
For some service members, their military job mirrors what they do as a civilian, but for many, it is an entirely separate career.
"Seeing this makes you appreciate them much more," said Melody Jepson, West Fraser sawmill senior employee in Newberry, South Carolina. "These people have to learn two jobs."
The ESGR can act as a liaison between the military and employer, often answering questions about the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act (USERRA).
"Our mission is to create the most positive work environment possible for Guard and Reservists and also educate employers on USERRA," said Wishart.
USERA not only provides guidelines for employers on how to work with an employee who is departing for extended military service, but also guides the service member for how to communicate with their civilian employer before, during, and after a deployment.
Wishart explained employers have been good about letting their employees go for deployments and the ESGR tries to stay connected with employers while their employees are away. He added, bringing them out to McEntire Joint National Guard Base to see for themselves is one of the best ways to build support.
The South Carolina National Guard provides workspace for the ESGR at the Bluff Road Armory in Columbia, South Carolina to make representatives available to service members with questions. It also builds strong community relationships between the National Guard and local businesses.
"We are thrilled to host the ESGR folks out here at McEntire Joint National Guard Base," said U.S. Air Force Col. Akshai Gandhi, 169th Fighter Wing commander. "Our Airmen and Soldiers are extremely valuable to us in the South Carolina National Guard and extremely valuable to their employers. When our Airmen and Soldiers are serving their community, state, nation, I feel there needs to be recognition for the employers because of all the sacrifices they make to support them and their families.