by Jim Greenhill ARLINGTON, Va. – An organization viewed by its founders as crucial to preserving an all-volunteer force quietly celebrated its 40th anniversary Friday.
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.
“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 volunteers.
“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 Affairs.
1994 saw passage of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.
“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.