Mayor Asks Counterparts to Support Guard, Reserve

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 26, 2008 - The mayor of Anchorage, Alaska, has asked his fellow mayors around the nation to publicly declare their support for their military employees.

"Today, more than ever, we must do everything we can to support our employees who are also serving our nation through the Guard and reserve," Mayor Mark Begich said. "It is incumbent on every employer to give all the support possible to these brave servicemen and women.

"That's why I have reached out to my fellow mayors and asked them to join me in signing an [Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve] Statement of Support," he added.

ESGR, a Defense Department organization, works to promote understanding between employers and their military employees. It provides volunteers who offer mediation and education services to employers, Guard and reserve members and their families regarding the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.

"When mayors sign a Statement of Support, they recognize National Guard and reserve as essential to the strength of our nation and the well-being of their communities," Begich said in his letter to more than 1,300 members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

A statement of support pledges to:

-- Fully recognize, honor and enforce USERRA;

-- Provide managers and supervisors with the tools they need to effectively manage employees who serve in the National Guard and reserves; and

-- Continually recognize and support the country's servicemembers and their families in peace, in crises and in war.

The Anchorage mayor also heads the Conference of Mayors' Military and Community Relations Task Force. Through this task force, he hopes some of Anchorage's best practices can assist other mayors in improving their respective cities' interactions with the military, said C.W. Floyd, Begich's military and veterans liaison.

Begich has long understood the importance of his military employees, Floyd said. In fact, more than 12,000 servicemembers stationed in Anchorage have recognized the city as a "benchmark city" for its support of their missions, he said.

"Mayor Begich realizes the integral role the Guard and reserve plays in our nation's defense. That has never been clearer than during the current global conflicts," Floyd said. "These servicemen and women cannot effectively carry out their military role if they're worried that they will lose their civilian job as a result of their service.

"Employers must do everything possible to eliminate this concern," he added.

Anchorage has about 70 to 75 employees that have been deployed, many for extended periods of time, Floyd said.

"The loss of a valued employee is always a concern, even on a temporary basis," he explained. "Overall, the impact has been minimal, but the mayor is committed to doing whatever we have to during this difficult time."

Anchorage's efforts aren't lost on ESGR, said Jim Rebholz, its national chairman, who acknowledged that often the city employees who are activated to military duty are first responders.

"The courage it took for him and the leadership it took for him, to stand up in front of his organization and say, 'This is the right thing to do,' really makes that guy twice the patriot in my view," Rebholz said. "As much as it seems like a challenge to some of us who are outside of governance I think ... the [positive] response should be overwhelming."

The effects of this challenge promise to be long-lasting and far-reaching, Rebholz said. He predicted a ripple effect that starts with mayors and works its way through other employers throughout the cities.

"This is the right thing to do, and it's the right time to do it," Rebholz said. "Today, supportive employers are critical to maintaining the strength and readiness of the nation's National Guard and reserve units."

ESGR is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.

*Related Sites:*
Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve  [ ]
Unitformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act  [ ]
Mayor Asks Counterparts to Support Guard, Reserve [ ]