By Sgt. 1st Class Jim GreenhillJune 22, 2012
ARLINGTON, Va. (6/22/12) - An organization viewed by its founders as crucial
to preserving an all-volunteer force quietly celebrated its 40th anniversary
Exactly 40-years earlier, President Richard Nixon appointed the first chair
of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.
"Throughout these 40 years, one thing has remained constant: the vision and
mission of ESGR to create a culture of America's employers and America's
industrial base to support and value the service that their men and women
provide our country," said James Rebholz, ESGR's national chair.
The last decade of continuous combat and historic natural disasters has
tested the reliance on members of the National Guard and Reserves and their
employers, revealing both groups' willingness to make extraordinary
sacrifices, ESGR officials said.
Volunteers are crucial to ESGR's success, said Assistant Secretary of
Defense for Reserve Affairs Jessica Wright.
"This organization is made up of a very small cadre of full-time people,"
she said, "but the organization is made up of a very large cadre of
"We wouldn't be an organization that is so robust, that is so well-known,
that works so well for our men and women without the long, hard work of our
volunteers," Wright said.
"The cornerstone, heart and soul of ESGR is the 4,800 volunteers we have
today," Rebholz said. "We have volunteers in all states and territories.
"In 2006, our friends at the National Guard Bureau - Lieutenant General
Steve Blum and his successor General Craig McKinley - ponied up money out of
their own budget to provide full-time support folks to help the efforts of
those volunteers," Rebholz said.
Nixon reached out to industry in one of the first hybrid organizations of
military-civilian cooperation, Rebholz explained. "He realized it could not
be a government program."
James Roche, retired General Motors CEO, was ESGR's first national chair.
In the late 1970s, ESGR became an official Defense Department registered
agency administered by the assistant secretary of defense for Reserve
1994 saw passage of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment
"That became the cornerstone of our mission - to educate the employers and
the Reservists and Guard members of their rights and responsibilities under
the law," Rebholz said.
In 1996, then-Secretary of Defense William Perry announced the first Freedom
Award, the Defense Department's highest award for a civilian employer who
provides outstanding support.
"We will continue to make America strong by providing our military leaders
with a strong and robust National Guard and Reserve force because they have
full employment and full support of our industrial base," Rebholz said.