I recently read an article on Fox News (http://fxn.ws/1CFVZr8) regarding the difficulties the Guard and Reserve faced when being recalled to active duty service, and I was appalled at the treatment these service members faced from their superiors.
I was active duty my whole career, but I have worked side by side with many Guardsmen and Reservists from all five branches of the service and have never worked with a finer group of men and women. I know the difficulties I faced when deploying months on end, going TDY for days, weeks, or months, and being locked down on base for long exercises, but what I dealt with is different from the same requirements that face those in the Guard and Reserve. Yes, they go through the same separations that the active duty do, but depending on the unit and individual, they may not do it as frequently (or in some cases, more frequently). However, they also have to face disruption in their civilian work, volunteer, and school lives.
With this in mind, employers, both federal and civilian, need to support all members of the armed services, regardless of their status. These individuals are not “playing war”, but are a cornerstone of our defensive services. Excluding the National Guard’s state commitments, the Guard and Reserves make up a significant portion of our military forces, encompassing 38% of the total force personnel according to a DoD 2013 demographics report. This significant force brings flexibility, adaptability, and strategic reach to our forces, allowing our government to adapt to changing situations and fight a war on more than one front.
Even with the protection provided by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), civilian and government employers are creating unneeded hardships for the Guard and Reservists. A summary provided by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESRG) states: “USERRA provides that an employer must give you time off to perform military service and reemploy you following the service with status, seniority and rate of pay as though you never left. The employer cannot discriminate against you because of your military connection. This protection applies to employees who are full-time, part-time, or probationary, so long as the employment is not brief, non-recurring, and not expected to continue for a significant period.”
Without the sacrifices of our Guard and Reserve brothers and sisters, the stresses on the active duty forces would be enormous. Our military would be much more selective in its operations, we would have reduced strike capability, less adaptability to battlefront conditions, and the physical toll on our service members would be unbearable. Most likely, Congress and the DoD would have had to introduce the draft to support the post-Vietnam era instead of using the all-volunteer force that exists today.
While not all employers make their recalled employees’ lives difficult, those that do outweigh the benefits received from the supporters of our Guard and Reserves. I believe we need to be vocal when we hear of these issues, bring them to light, and support those who are serving with pride. We are a total force, Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve, and we need to stand together to support each other, on the battlefield, in garrison, and in the community.
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