CENTENNIAL, Colo. — The Colorado Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program said a unique “thank you” to employers of Colorado National Guardsman via a tour of Vigilant Guard exercise sites July 24.
Approximately 2,300 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from eight different states, along with hundreds of civilian medical personnel, first responders, role players and observer controllers, are participating in the five-day event that began in Colorado Springs, Colo., and concluded in the Denver metropolitan area.
Similar to the recent wildfires that ravaged Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico; and tornadoes that devastated Oklahoma in recent months; the training scenario was designed to test the Guard's reaction to catastrophic consequences of such events, and particularly the interagency coordination with civilian responders.
The employers' visit included an overview of the Colorado National Guard's missions and roles in domestic emergency operations, as well as direct observation of exercise at the North Metro Fire Rescue District Complex in Northglenn, Colo.
The objective of the visit, aptly called a Boss Lift, was to demonstrate the contributions National Guard members make in their communities, as well as the nation's defense, when called away from their civilian employers to serve.
"My employer supporting me means that I'm able to serve my country and community in a way that also serves both my family and my company," said Air National Guard Capt. Conrad Evans, who worked as a logistics liaison officer in the Colorado National Guard's Joint Operations Center in Centennial, Colo., during the exercise.
Though not in the community in a chemical suit like his more visible counterparts in the field, his contribution to the operation is one that his bosses wholeheartedly support.
His employer, CenturyLink holds his job when he's deployed; backfills his position; and voluntarily pays the difference between paychecks when he's called to serve, so he doesn't have to suffer financial hardship.
"Being able to support my family is my priority, and I know I don't have to be distracted by that while I'm deployed from my wife and kids," Evans sasid.
ESGR is a Department of Defense agency, led and operated by volunteers who gain and maintain employer support for Guard and Reserve service by recognizing outstanding support, increasing awareness, resolving conflicts through developing initiatives and increase employment for military service members and veterans.
In June, two Colorado companies were recognized as among the best in the nation for supporting their civilian-warriors.
Colorado Springs Utilities of Colorado Springs, Colo., a public-sector company, and DaVita Inc., of Denver, a large business, were among 15 winners of the 2013 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. JG Management Systems, Inc., of Grand Junction, Colo., was among the 30 finalists named in May.
These employers distinguished themselves among the 2,899 nominations received from Guardsmen and Reservists.
Colorado companies comprise 10 percent of the 30 finalists, even though the total number of National Guardsmen and Reservists who call Colorado home comprise less than 2 percent of the nation’s total reserve component.
The Freedom Award is the DOD’s highest recognition given to employers for exceptional support of Guard and Reserve employees.
"Maintaining relationships with employers is important for service members," said Brent Hamilton, Colorado ESGR program manager, who noted that more that 660 Colorado National Guardsmen, and Reservists from the Air Force Reserve's 302nd Airlift Wing missed at least three weeks of work when they were activated to support the four different Colorado wildfires in June.