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Deputy Defense Secretary Calls Employer Support Critical

Samantha Quigley, Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs

WASHINGTON - 09.18.2009

The military is fortunate the nation offers its unbridled support and backing to its military employees, the deputy defense secretary said, Sept. 17.

"The partnership between the civilian employers and our members of the Reserve and National Guard is critical to our nation's success in almost every endeavor the department undertakes," said William J. Lynn, during his address to those gathered here for the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve's annual award ceremony.

The ceremony honored 15 employers with the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award for offering their military employees support above and beyond what the law requires.

"There are three interrelated and mutually dependent elements to our success," Lynn said. "First, our talented and dedicated service members. Second, their loving and supportive families. But third, their awesome civilian employers who we're here to honor tonight.

"It's the knitting together of all three that binds together the strength of our force," he added.

This year was a record-breaker for nominations of outstanding employers. More than 3,000 were received across the three categories: large businesses, small businesses, and public-sector employers.

"It sounds like nearly all of them nominated their employers for this award, which is just terrific," Lynn said.

A few of the service members who submitted nominations this year expressed their appreciation for their employers at the ceremony.

Army Reserve Maj. Tom Castellano, a technology specialist with Microsoft, has served two tours in support of operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom.

"I want to thank Microsoft publically for their outstanding support," he said. "I nominated [them] for their dedication and their commitment to military families on an individual [level].

"At my own personal level, Microsoft provided differential pay and benefits for the entire year I was supporting the war efforts," he added. "It was my first tour [since starting] with Microsoft ... in military terminology; they were pretty much protecting my ... 6 o'clock position.'

Microsoft also supports the USO, the Fisher House program and Hire America's Heroes. In 2007, the company donated $3.7 million to the National Guard Youth Foundation.

Louisiana Army National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. Brent Barnett said he was proud to work for Jackson Parish Police Department's Sheriff Andy Brown who, even though he'd never worn the uniform, epitomizes the qualities of a military noncommissioned officer, he said.

"The opening statement of the creed of the noncommissioned officer says that, 'No one is more professional than I,'" Barnett said. "It's an honor to work for a person of his character."

Brown is a staunch supporter of the Louisiana National Guard, supports family unit activities with equipment and K-9 demonstrations, attends field training exercises and has toured Guard facilities and installations.

"He's gone as far as, during state emergencies, to lend out department equipment, mobile field units, to support our movements throughout the state of Louisiana," Barnett said.

Small employers may have it the hardest when it comes to temporarily losing a military employee to deployment, said Leon Harris, the master of ceremonies and a local ABC news anchor.

That didn't stop AeroDyn Wind Tunnel from going beyond above and beyond, according to the company's nominator, Army National Guard Sgt. Michael Scaglione.

"I've been at AeroDyn about six years and I don't think I have enough time tonight to tell all they've done for me," Scaglione said with a smile. "When they found out I was getting ready to deploy for Iraq, they had one question: What do I need? I asked for more life insurance."

Scaglione got the life insurance and a whole lot more, he said, including peace of mind that his two girls wouldn't be jolted out of their routine. During his going-away party, hosted by the company -- a 24/7 operation that shut down for the event -- his girls got a big gift.

"They gave my daughters over $2,000 in gift certificates so they could to the movies, they could go out to dinner, go shopping and do whatever they needed for the year I'm gone," Scaglione said. "That was remarkable to me."

Even more remarkable, someone from the company calls the girls each school morning to make sure they're up and ready for school, just like Dad did before he deployed, which he will be for at least another four months.

His command agreed to extend his two weeks of rest and recuperation leave so he could attend the ESGR event.

Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, addressed the crowd before dinner was served. The ceremony concluded with the presentation of 15 crystal eagle statues to the employers deemed the "best of the best" by this year's award selection committee.

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