Commonwealth employers brace for Kentucky Guard mobilization

VHV

By Capt. Andi Hahn, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Public Affairs Officer

Louisville Metro Policeman and Kentucky National Guardsman Sgt. Scott Sturgeon and LMPD and Kentucky Guardsman Sgt. Donald Gosney of Headquarters and Headquarters Company will be taking a break from their civilian job to deploy with the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade this summer.

When a Citizen-Soldier receives orders to deploy, a seat at the dinner table isn’t the only one that sits empty. Sometimes it is a seat at a desk, on a truck or even in the driver’s seat of a Louisville Metro Police Department squad car.

It is a scenario that will play out in literally hundreds of Kentucky companies in the months to come as the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Bridge, a Kentucky-based Army National Guard unit, deploys to Iraq. The mobilization will be the largest deployment of the Kentucky Army National Guard since World War II, as thousands of men and women head to the Middle East.

While it is tough to be away from family, the deployment also requires the understanding and support of employers, said Bob Silverthorn, state chairman of the Kentucky Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. It also means that companies’ human resources personnel become more familiar with the law covering military Reserve and Guard members.

Reservists and Guardsmen are protected under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, which covers prompt reinstatement of these personnel who are called to active duty to serve their country. Silverthorn said his Kentucky ESGR full-time staff and volunteers are trained and available to answer questions about reemployment rights from both employers and military Guardsmen.

“Both companies and Soldiers have responsibilities during the build-up to deployment and upon return,” said Silverthorn. “The keys are good communications and a thorough understanding of the law. Our Kentucky ESGR personnel are available to help at any time.”

Additionally, changes in the Family Medical Leave Act make it possible, under certain circumstances, for Family members of deployed Guard and Reserve personnel to obtain time off from their jobs. Silverthorn said his ESGR staff is able to assist employers with questions about this.

1st Sgt. Richard Southard, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, stands next to his wife Babbette. Southard will be taking a break from his civilian job at Toyoda Gosei to deploy with the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade this summer.

While LMPD officers Scott Sturgeon and Donald Gosney will trade their beats from Louisville streets to ones in Iraq, they prepared their civilian employer for the deployment well in advance to minimize the effects to two empty slots on a shift.

“We were preparing for this before an official order came down,” said Maj. Jim Sohan, 3rd Division Commander, LMPD. “We arranged different days off and adjusted schedules to cover their beats. When they come home, they will jump right back into their same shift.”

For some Soldiers, including the brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company 1st Sgt. Richard Southard, employed by Toyoda Gosei located in Lebanon, Ky., the transition will not be so easy at the company.

“It is difficult for my co-workers to continue my duties after I leave and it will be challenging for me to re-integrate back into my department,” he said. “However, I am surrounded by very talented and efficient people who are able to absorb the loss and carry on.”

“Richard will have a lot to learn when he comes back,” said Dennis Brown, human resources manager for TG. “It is difficult to lose employees like him, but we support our employees’ military obligations.”

Employers such as LMPD and TG deserve recognition Silverthorn said. Soldiers can recommend their employers for the Patriot Award for ESGR, and employers who go above and beyond in their support are eligible for even more awards.

“I’d like to see that every Kentucky-based company that supports its employees who are in uniform be recognized,” said Silverthorn. “I also want to help ensure that our Soldiers and employers come through this deployment without a single major problem.”

Employers may learn more about ESGR at www.esgr.mil or by contacting either of the Kentucky ESGR full-time staff offices: 502- 454-1316 in Louisville or 502- 607-6055 in Frankfort.

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